The Red Badge of Courage

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A nameless, dirty, and twice-shot soldier who meets Henry in the procession of the wounded. By asking Henry about the fighting and Henry's non-existent wounds, the tattered man works like Henry's external conscience. Henry thinks that the tattered man knows his secrets, though Henry is probably projecting his guilt and shame on to others. Even though the tattered man selflessly tries to assist the wounded Jim and then needs help himself when he is on the verge of dying, Henry deserts him: a juvenile attempt to escape his own shame. The memory of the tattered man and Henry's abandonment of him plagues Henry's conscience.

Tattered man Quotes in The Red Badge of Courage

The The Red Badge of Courage quotes below are all either spoken by Tattered man or refer to Tattered man. 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 9 Quotes
Because of the tattered soldier's question he now felt that his shame could be viewed. He was continually casting sidelong glances to see if the men were contemplating the letters of guilt he felt burned into his brow.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth), Tattered man
Related Symbols: The Tattered Man
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

In the previous chapter, a "tattered man" asks Henry if he's been wounded. Henry, knowing full-well that he wasn't wounded at all (since he ran from the battle) immediately feels guilty. As he walks along with the other soldiers, many of whom do have horrific wounds sustained during the battle, Henry feels that everyone is judging him for his cowardice--he thinks that his desertion must be obvious to everyone else.

Of course, there's little chance that anyone else really realizes that Henry ran away--on the contrary, Henry's stigma of guilt is totally internal; he remains so fiercely loyal to the principle of courage and heroism that he feels ashamed, and assumes that he looks like a coward. Thus, the passage makes an important point: Henry has seen some horrifying things in battle, but he continues to believe that fighting with one's fellow troops is the right thing to do. His belief in the value of courage and heroism can't be stripped away so easily.


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Chapter 10 Quotes
The simple questions of the tattered man had been knife thrusts to him. They asserted a society that probes pitilessly at secrets until all is apparent. ... [H]is crime ... was sure to be brought plain by one of those arrows which cloud the air and are constantly pricking, discovering, proclaiming those things which are willed to be forever hidden.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth), Tattered man
Related Symbols: Wounds, The Tattered Man
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, the Tattered Man berates Henry with questions about his war wounds. The Tattered Man wants to know where Henry has been wounded--a question that Henry hates, because it reminds him that he's a coward, and doesn't have wounds of any kind on his body.

The Tattered Man, we come to see, is an externalization of Henry's own guilty conscience. Just as Henry comes to despise himself for his own lack of courage during the battle, the Tattered Man continues to "attack" Henry with probing questions that reiterate Henry's cowardice. Henry desperately wants to be perceived as a brave man by his fellow troops, but the Tattered Man's questions suggest that Henry is a long way from being celebrated for his bravery. Ironically, Crane describes the the Tattered Man's questions in harsh, militaristic language ("knife thrusts," "arrows")--even though Henry has fled from the literal battle, he's entered into a metaphorical "battle" for recognition.

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