The Red Badge of Courage

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Dead soldier Character Analysis

An anonymous, deceased Union soldier whose decomposing body Henry finds in the woods. The dead, decomposing body's position in a "chapel" of trees implies a profound uncertainty about the promises of religion; could this body, being eaten by ants, really have a soul in heaven? The rotting, ant-strewn corpse also shows that nature is unrelenting. Ultimately, the dead soldier shows that Henry's hopes for a glorious death are naïve.

Dead soldier Quotes in The Red Badge of Courage

The The Red Badge of Courage quotes below are all either spoken by Dead soldier or refer to Dead soldier. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Courage Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of The Red Badge of Courage published in 2005.
Chapter 7 Quotes
He was being looked at by a dead man who was seated with his back against a columnlike tree. The corpse was dressed in a uniform that once had been blue, but was now faded to a melancholy shade of green. The eyes, staring at the youth, had changed to the dull hue to be seen on the side of a dead fish. The mouth was open. Its red had changed to an appalling yellow. Over the gray skin of the face ran little ants. One was trundling some sort of a bundle along the upper lip. ... The dead man and the living man exchanged a long look.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth), Dead soldier
Related Symbols: Corpses
Page Number: 49-50
Explanation and Analysis:

In this frightening, almost nightmarish scene, Henry stumbles upon a soldier's corpse. To Henry's horror, the corpse is covered in ants, who walk all over the dead body with no respect for human dignity. Nature, one could say, is totally indifferent to human concerns--the universe doesn't care about the differences between the Union and the Confederate armies; life goes on either way. Note the subtle color symbolism here--the red and blue (the official colors of the Confederate and Union troops) of the soldier's body have become green and yellow, symbolizing the decay of all political and ideological values in the face of utter annihilation.


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