The Red Badge of Courage

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The Red Badge of Courage Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next day the long march continues. The new, inexperienced soldiers grow tired and start to throw away their bright new jackets, hats, and knapsacks along the roadside.
A metaphor for a big question: what are the essential qualities of a soldier? Appearance says nothing about internal strength.
Themes
The War Machine Theme Icon
Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
One morning, Henry is kicked awake by Jim. The soldiers are soon running toward spatters of gunfire. Henry realizes he couldn't run away if he tried: the regiment boxes him in. Henry starts to feel like a victim, dragged to slaughter against his wishes.
Henry contradicts himself for the first time. Claiming to be a victim, Henry is in denial about volunteering. He feels he might have made a mistake he doesn't want to admit.
Themes
Courage Theme Icon
The War Machine Theme Icon
Noise and Silence Theme Icon
The fast-moving mass of soldiers divides to pass a corpse in a worn-out blue uniform. Henry stares at its eyes, looking for any kind of answer, but the mob of soldiers around him pushes him forward.
For Henry, the corpse has seen the real meaning of war, but it cannot share its messages with the living.
Themes
The War Machine Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon
Again and again, the soldiers take up positions in the woods behind rocks and tree limbs for protection, but each time they are then ordered to march further. Soon the soldiers get annoyed, and start to complain that their commanders must be fools. Less nervous now than curious, Henry watches the battle lines stretch over the landscape.
Like Henry, the soldiers displace onto their commanders their misgivings about joining the army, their mistaken belief that it would be glorious. Complaining gives the soldiers the illusion that they have some control of their situation.
Themes
Courage Theme Icon
The War Machine Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
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Eventually, the regiment nears the fighting. Guns flash and the noise grows to a roar. Wilson taps Henry on the shoulder and, with fear in his voice, tells Henry he expects to get killed. Wilson hands over a packet to be given to his parents in case he dies in battle.
Faced with an actual battle, Wilson the braggart becomes a frightened sentimental sap. Early on, Wilson is a character of extremes: first overly brave, then overly timid.
Themes
Courage Theme Icon
Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
Noise and Silence Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon