The Red Badge of Courage

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Corpses Symbol Analysis

Corpses Symbol Icon
Henry is fascinated with corpses in his search for answers about courage, glory, and self-sacrifice. He had initially believed that a glorious death would give him everlasting fame. But in the war, he sees corpses landing in awkward positions and looking betrayed. In doing so, they show the grotesque reality of war and reveal death as meaningless. In particular, the dead soldier in the "chapel" in the forest does not seem glorious to Henry—it's just a mound of rotting meat. Its pointless death defies any effort to find meaning in death itself.
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Corpses Symbol Timeline in The Red Badge of Courage

The timeline below shows where the symbol Corpses appears in The Red Badge of Courage. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
The War Machine Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead 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... (full context)
Chapter 5
Courage Theme Icon
The War Machine Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon
...him back into line. Henry sees several soldiers get shot, their faces looking betrayed, their bodies dropping into awkward poses as if they'd fallen from the sky. (full context)
Chapter 7
Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
Noise and Silence Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon
...that resembles a chapel. In this "chapel," Henry is horrified to discover a Union soldier's corpse. Ants are running over its discolored face and swarming up to its dull eyes, and... (full context)
Chapter 9
Courage Theme Icon
Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon
Henry is spellbound by Jim's corpse. He stares into Jim's paste-like face and, when Jim's jacket falls away, sees Jim's awful... (full context)
Chapter 10
Courage Theme Icon
Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon
Henry leaves, abandoning the tattered man to wander in the field. Now Henry envies the corpses of dead soldiers. He wishes he were dead because he'll never be able to hide... (full context)
Chapter 11
Courage Theme Icon
Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon
...all to see. Henry feels a thrill at contemplating the "magnificent pathos" of his own corpse. (full context)
Chapter 14
The War Machine Theme Icon
Noise and Silence Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon
...Looking around in the grayish light of dawn, Henry mistakes the other sleeping soldiers for corpses. A second later he realizes they're alive, but he feels his vision may come true... (full context)
Chapter 19
The War Machine Theme Icon
Noise and Silence Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon
...the regiment's formation. Soldiers collapse awkwardly when shot and the charge leaves a trail of bodies on the ground. (full context)
Courage Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon
...He and Wilson each lunge for the flag and they tug it away from the corpse's firm grasp. (full context)
Chapter 20
Courage Theme Icon
Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
Noise and Silence Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon
...fire dwindles away. The smoke clears and the field is empty, except for some twisted corpses. Victorious, the blue soldiers cheer hoarsely, proud for having proved that "they were men." (full context)
Chapter 22
Courage Theme Icon
The War Machine Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon
...of "mule drivers" and "mud diggers." 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... (full context)