The Red Badge of Courage

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Wilson (the loud young soldier, the youth's friend) Character Analysis

Wilson is a new volunteer and Henry's closest friend in the regiment. He begins as a brash and confident soldier, but by the start of the first battle Wilson is deeply afraid that he'll die. Because of the narrator's limited point of view, Wilson disappears from the story while Henry is away from his regiment, but he too matures through personal conflicts. From being a "loud young soldier," Wilson becomes a quiet, generous, and reflective man. Like Henry, Wilson eventually fights fiercely, selflessly, and well. In the novel, Wilson serves as a reflection of Henry. His differences from Henry add perspective to Henry's character and experience.

Wilson (the loud young soldier, the youth's friend) Quotes in The Red Badge of Courage

The The Red Badge of Courage quotes below are all either spoken by Wilson (the loud young soldier, the youth's friend) or refer to Wilson (the loud young soldier, the youth's friend). 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 14 Quotes
The youth took note of a remarkable change in his comrade ... He seemed no more to be continually regarding the proportions of his personal prowess. He was not furious at small words that pricked his conceits. He was no more a loud young soldier. There was about him now a fine reliance. He showed a quiet belief in his purposes and his abilities.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth), Wilson (the loud young soldier, the youth's friend)
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

After fighting in a battle, soldiers often experience drastic changes of personality or emotional state. They stop trying to show off and prove their bravery, and accept their own limitations as human beings. Wilson, a friend of Henry's who was initially loud-mouthed and testy, has become docile and calm with his peers, reflecting the fact that he's been in serious danger in battle. Henry, in spite of his apparent war wound, is much the same as he was before the war--despite his delusions of worldliness and military experience, he hasn't really been changed by his experiences in battle (just as Henry's wound isn't really a war wound at all, just an imitation of one). Wounds and "red badges" are no replacement for genuine experience and self-realization.

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Chapter 23 Quotes
The youth's friend went over the obstruction in a tumbling heap and sprang at the flag as a panther at prey. He pulled at it and, wrenching it free, swung up its red brilliancy with a mad cry of exultation even as the color bearer, gasping, lurched over in a final throe and, stiffening convulsively, turned his dead face to the ground.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth), Wilson (the loud young soldier, the youth's friend)
Related Symbols: Corpses, Wounds, Flags
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Henry and his "friend," Wilson, compete to capture their opponents' flag, a symbol of the Confederate cause itself. Although Henry wants to claim the Confederate soldiers' flag as a prize, Wilson gets there first. Wilson, noticing that the enemy flag-bearer is mortally wounded, wrenches the flag free.

Crane contrasts Wilson's savage exultation with the pain and misery of the dying flag-bearer. War is a zero-sum game: for every victory that one soldier savors, another soldier is murdered. Wilson, overcome with enthusiasm for his fellow soldiers and his cause, doesn't stop to notice the dying soldier. He seems to have no respect for the soldier's humanity--after all, the soldier is his enemy, a faceless being he's been taught to hate. In encouraging soldiers to pursue glory and heroism, Crane suggests, war forces soldiers to surrender their natural sympathy for other human beings.

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Wilson (the loud young soldier, the youth's friend) Character Timeline in The Red Badge of Courage

The timeline below shows where the character Wilson (the loud young soldier, the youth's friend) appears in The Red Badge of Courage. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
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Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
...Henry feels homesick and isolated from the others. He meets a friend, the loud soldier Wilson, and asks him if he would run from battle. Of course not, Wilson replies, and... (full context)
Chapter 3
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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... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...but helpless to do anything else. The guard on duty orders him to halt. It's Wilson, who is happy to see him. (full context)
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...lump jest as if some feller had lammed yeh on th' head with a club." Wilson bandages Henry's head and admires his tough attitude in returning to camp because "[a] shot... (full context)
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Some soldiers are pale and exhausted around the fire. Others have sunk into "death-like" sleep. Wilson gently cares for Henry, arranging his own blankets for Henry to sleep on. Henry falls... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...drums, and shrill officers help stir the sleepy camp to life. Among the grumbling soldiers, Wilson tends the fire. When Wilson adjusts Henry's bandage, Henry lashes out in irritation, and Wilson... (full context)
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Henry and Wilson talk about the previous day. Wilson says the regiment saw hard fighting, but Henry reassures... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...reassembles and is ready to march. In line, Henry remembers the packet of letters that Wilson had entrusted to him. Henry decides to keep the packet as a "small weapon" to... (full context)
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Wilson nervously approaches Henry and asks for his packet of letters back. Seeing that Wilson is... (full context)
Chapter 16
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The regiment marches to relieve other soldiers dug into some trenches. Settling in, Wilson puts his head down and promptly falls asleep. The firing of muskets and cannons swells... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...the enemy has given them no time to rest, no room to breathe. He tells Wilson the enemy better watch out if they keep up the chase. Wilson calmly replies that... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...was wounded: Jimmy Rogers, who is screaming and thrashing in the grass. Henry goes with Wilson to find some water, but there is no stream. As they return, they get a... (full context)
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The general stops near enough for Henry and Wilson to overhear some news. A strong enemy charge is threatening to break the lines, and... (full context)
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Disheartened, Henry and Wilson return to their regiment to share the news of their impending charge. They don't tell... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...they soon falter, huddling together like dazed sheep. The lieutenant screams to get them moving. Wilson fires a shot into the woods, snapping the soldiers out of their trance. The regiment... (full context)
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...when they reach some trees, the soldiers hesitate a second time. The lieutenant, Henry, and Wilson all scream at the men to push on. Their flag obediently gets moving again and... (full context)
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Henry sees the color sergeant get shot and stumble. He and Wilson each lunge for the flag and they tug it away from the corpse's firm grasp. (full context)
Chapter 20
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Henry and Wilson scuffle to carry the flag, each wanting to put himself at greater risk. Henry pushes... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...Henry thinks his final revenge will be his own dead body lying on the battlefield. Wilson and the lieutenant are nearby, but the regiment is growing weaker. (full context)
Chapter 23
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...flag bearer is mortally wounded. Henry wants that flag for himself as a prize. But Wilson leaps over the fence and rips away the enemy's flag from the dying man's grasp.... (full context)
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...and outcomes, yearning for news. Settling down behind the fence with their flags, Henry and Wilson congratulate each other. (full context)