The Red Badge of Courage

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Noise and Silence Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Courage Theme Icon
The War Machine Theme Icon
Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
Noise and Silence Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Red Badge of Courage, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Noise and Silence Theme Icon

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.

Noise and Silence ThemeTracker

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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Noise and Silence Quotes in The Red Badge of Courage

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.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:

Henry prepares for another battle, and as it begins, the noise of gunfire becomes almost deafening. Crane describes the noise of the battle as a "spluttering sound," suggesting the chaos of the scene. Furthermore, he compares the sound to a huge, whirring machine. Crane has compared a battle to a machine in the past--but here, the "thumping" machinery threatens to swallow Henry and his peers up indiscriminately.

The horrors of war are so vast that Henry has needed to believe in the fairy tales of courage and chivalry--if he didn't have beliefs to comfort him, he could have been crushed under the sheer terror of the Civil War. Now that Henry is a more experienced soldier, he's coming to recognize the war for what it really is--a chaotic, "whirring" storm, both huge and meaningless.

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