From popping musketry to the belching of artillery explosions to the "devotional silence" of the woods, Red Badge gets much of its descriptive power from its descriptions of sound. The noises of battle give the reader a soldier's point of view and do more than just describe war: they convey the intensely disorienting experience that battle must have been for soldiers on the ground. For a low-ranking infantryman like Henry, noise is his only news of the battle. The narrative describes explosions as the armies communicating with each other. All this noise overwhelms Henry and he can't understand what's going on: a metaphor for the chaos and senselessness of war. On the other hand, silence is golden. When "the loud young soldier" Wilson matures from his empty boastfulness, he quiets down. The story ends with Henry yearning for "soft and eternal peace"—the end of noise and war altogether.
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The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Noise and Silence appears in each chapter of The Red Badge of Courage. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Below you will find the important quotes in The Red Badge of Courage related to the theme of Noise and Silence.
Chapter 22 Quotes
A spluttering sound had begun in the woods. It swelled with amazing speed to a profound clamor that involved the earth in noises. The splitting crashes swept along the lines until an interminable roar was developed. To those in the midst of it it became a din fitted to the universe. It was the whirring and thumping of gigantic machinery, complications among the smaller stars.