The Red Badge of Courage

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The Red Badge of Courage Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Relieved, the regiment returns back to the line of other blue soldiers. They are met with jeers and sarcastic questions from veteran soldiers still in reserve. Henry's regiment is insulted and angry, but Henry realizes that the distance they covered to the trees, even though it had seemed vast, is actually pretty small.
Henry realizes what readers already know: that his subjective impressions do not accurately reflect reality. It's a sad change for the regiment: the honor they had felt just moments before vanishes in an instant.
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The insulting officer storms over and complains to the colonel of Henry's regiment that they stopped too short, just 100 feet from victory. Apparently, the charge was only a diversion for another attack. The insulting officer calls Henry's regiment "a lot of mud diggers."
An ironic twist: the victory is interpreted as a loss, and the regiment suffered for a diversion, not the real attack. Cogs in the war machine, the soldiers can't see the big picture.
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The colonel apologizes. The lieutenant starts to protest that his men fought hard, but the colonel shuts him up. Wilson complains to Henry about the injustice of it all. Each agrees that they fought as hard as they could. They blame the general in charge.
The soldiers' extreme efforts and bravery is unimportant to the commanding officers. To those officers, the soldiers are just chess pieces, to be moved, and possibly killed, as part of a larger strategy.
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Several soldiers rush over to Henry and Wilson, reporting that they overheard the colonel and lieutenant praising the bravery Henry and Wilson showed in leading the charge. They should be major-generals, said the colonel. Henry and Wilson shrug off the compliments, but they are secretly thrilled.
The regiment's officers recognize that Henry and Wilson have leadership qualities, especially their willingness to put themselves at risk to inspire the other soldiers.
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