The Red Badge of Courage

Henry Fleming is a young private who volunteered for the infantry against his mother's wishes. Having "dreamed of battles all his life," Henry has romantic notions of war influenced by Greek classics such as the Iliad. These ideas of war are challenged by his actual experiences with war. Henry's resulting psychological turmoil is the focus of the narrative, especially his anxiety about lacking the courage to fight. Henry's emotions are never settled: after he flees from battle, Henry is overcome by guilt and self-pity; when he shows courage under fire, he recovers his pride. Within a few short days, he transforms from a hot-headed, idealistic young boy into an experienced soldier who feels like a grown man. Over the course of the story, Henry tries out many philosophical approaches to discover his individuality and place within the war, as if searching for answers to the question he asks at one point: "Why—why—." In the face of gruesome casualties and the chaos of war, Henry also struggles to interpret symbols such as the flag for meaning. But their meaning keeps changing, and Henry flip-flops between self-confidence and insignificance, between courage and cowardice. Henry seems mature by the end of the novel, but this may be just another moment of calm in a much bigger storm.

Henry Fleming (the youth) Quotes in The Red Badge of Courage

The The Red Badge of Courage quotes below are all either spoken by Henry Fleming (the youth) or refer to Henry Fleming (the youth). 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of The Red Badge of Courage published in 2005.
Chapter 1 Quotes
He had burned several times to enlist. Tales of great movements shook the land. They might not be distinctly Homeric, but there seemed to be much glory in them. He had read of marches, sieges, conflicts, and he had longed to see it all. His busy mind had drawn for him large pictures extravagant in color, lurid with breathless deeds.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Page Number: 5-6
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 2 Quotes
He finally concluded that the only way to prove himself was to go into the blaze, and then figuratively to watch his legs to discover their merits and faults. He reluctantly admitted that he could not sit still and with a mental slate and pencil derive an answer. To gain it, he must have blaze, blood, and danger, even as a chemist requires this, that, and the other.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes
The ranks opened covertly to avoid the corpse. ... The youth looked keenly at the ashen face. ... He vaguely desired to walk around and around the body and stare; the impulse of the living to try to read in dead eyes the answer to the Question.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Related Symbols: Corpses
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes
The battle reflection that shone for an instant in the faces on the mad current made the youth feel that forceful hands from heaven would not have been able to have held him in place if he could have got intelligent control of his legs.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes
Directly he was working at his weapon like an automatic affair. He suddenly lost concern for himself, and forgot to look at a menacing fate. He became not a man but a member. ... He was welded into a common personality which was dominated by a single desire.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

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Under foot there were a few ghastly forms motionless. They lay twisted in fantastic contortions. Arms were bent and heads were turned in incredible ways. It seemed that the dead men must have fallen from some great height to get into such positions. They looked to be dumped out upon the ground from the sky.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Related Symbols: Corpses
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes
Into the youth's eyes there came a look that one can see in the orbs of a jaded horse. His neck was quivering with nervous weakness and the muscles of his arms felt numb and bloodless. His hands, too, seemed large and awkward as if he was wearing invisible mittens. And there was a great uncertainty about his knee joints.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Page Number: 41-42
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes
He had fled, he told himself, because annihilation approached. He had done a good part in saving himself, who was a little piece of the army. ... It was all plain that he had proceeded according to very correct and commendable rules. His actions had been sagacious things. They had been full of strategy. They were the work of a master's legs.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

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He was being looked at by a dead man who was seated with his back against a columnlike tree. The corpse was dressed in a uniform that once had been blue, but was now faded to a melancholy shade of green. The eyes, staring at the youth, had changed to the dull hue to be seen on the side of a dead fish. The mouth was open. Its red had changed to an appalling yellow. Over the gray skin of the face ran little ants. One was trundling some sort of a bundle along the upper lip. ... The dead man and the living man exchanged a long look.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth), Dead soldier
Related Symbols: Corpses
Page Number: 49-50
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8 Quotes
The battle was like the grinding of an immense and terrible machine to him. Its complexities and powers, its grim processes, fascinated him. He must go close and see it produce corpses.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Related Symbols: Corpses
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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At times he regarded the wounded soldiers in an envious way. He conceived persons with torn bodies to be peculiarly happy. He wished that he, too, had a wound, a red badge of courage.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Related Symbols: Wounds
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Chapter 11 Quotes
As he watched his envy grew ... Swift pictures of himself, apart, yet in himself, came to him—a blue desperate figure leading lurid charges with one knee forward and a broken blade high—a blue, determined figure standing before a crimson and steel assault, getting calmly killed on a high place before the eyes of all. He thought of the magnificent pathos of his dead body.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Related Symbols: Corpses
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 12 Quotes
The fight was lost. The dragons were coming with invincible strides. The army, helpless in the matted thickets and blinded by the overhanging night, was going to be swallowed. War, the red animal, war, the blood swollen god, would have bloated fill.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Related Symbols: Wounds
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 13 Quotes
"Yeh've been grazed by a ball. It's raised a queer lump jest as if some feller had lammed yeh on th' head with a club."
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Related Symbols: Wounds
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Chapter 15 Quotes
His self pride was now entirely restored. In the shade of its flourishing growth he stood with braced and self-confident legs, and since nothing could now be discovered he did not shrink from an encounter with the eyes of judges, and allowed no thoughts of his own to keep him from an attitude of manfulness. He had performed his mistakes in the dark, so he was still a man.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 17 Quotes
It was revealed to him that he had been a barbarian, a beast. He had fought like a pagan who defends his religion. Regarding it, he saw that it was fine, wild, and, in some ways, easy. ... [H]e was now what he called a hero. And he had not been aware of the process. He had slept and, awakening, found himself a knight.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 19 Quotes
Within him, as he hurled himself forward, was born a love, a despairing fondness for this flag which was near him. It was a creation of beauty and invulnerability. It was a goddess, radiant, that bended its form with an imperious gesture to him. It was a woman, red and white, hating and loving, that called him with the voice of his hopes. Because no harm could come to it he endowed it with power.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Related Symbols: Flags
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 21 Quotes
He discovered that the distances, as compared with the brilliant measurings of his mind, were trivial and ridiculous. The stolid trees, where much had taken place, seemed incredibly near. The time, too, now that he reflected, he saw to have been short. He wondered at the number of emotions and events that had been crowded into such little spaces.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Chapter 23 Quotes
The mob of blue men hurling themselves on the dangerous group of rifles were again grown suddenly wild with an enthusiasm of unselfishness ... they were in a state of frenzy, perhaps because of forgotten vanities, and it made an exhibition of sublime recklessness.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Chapter 24 Quotes
He felt a quiet manhood, nonassertive but of sturdy and strong blood. He knew that he would no more quail before his guides wherever they should point. He had been to touch the great death, and found that, after all, it was but the great death. He was a man.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth)
Page Number: 139
Explanation and Analysis:

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Henry Fleming (the youth) Character Timeline in The Red Badge of Courage

The timeline below shows where the character Henry Fleming (the youth) appears in The Red Badge of Courage. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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A young private, Henry Fleming, listens to Jim and returns to his bunk to think. As a youth, he... (full context)
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Henry suspects that education, religion, and daily concerns have sapped the greatness from men that was... (full context)
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Now faced with the possibility of battle, Henry realizes he doesn't really know how he'll act: will he fight courageously, or will he... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Jim was wrong: for several days afterwards, the regiment doesn't move. Henry remains nervous about his courage, realizing that an actual battle will be the only way... (full context)
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One morning, a colonel appears on horseback with orders, and Henry's regiment marches to join other soldiers in formation. As they walk, the infantrymen boast and... (full context)
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After a long march, the soldiers make camp. Henry feels homesick and isolated from the others. He meets a friend, the loud soldier Wilson,... (full context)
Chapter 3
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One morning, Henry is kicked awake by Jim. The soldiers are soon running toward spatters of gunfire. Henry... (full context)
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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 answer, but the mob of soldiers... (full context)
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...and start to complain that their commanders must be fools. Less nervous now than curious, Henry watches the battle lines stretch over the landscape. (full context)
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...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 to get... (full context)
Chapter 4
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The battle rages in front of Henry's regiment. Soldiers watch and argue about its progress, claiming that various parts of their army... (full context)
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Artillery shells and bullets start hitting the ground and trees around Henry's position. Their lieutenant is shot in the hand and swears so terribly that his men... (full context)
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In the distant smoke, Henry sees a Union battle flag fall over. Suddenly, a mob of blue soldiers retreats through... (full context)
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Henry realizes that if he started to run, nothing could compel him to stop. But he... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Henry's regiment was supposed to have served in this battle as reinforcements. But now, with the... (full context)
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The screaming mob of enemies approaches through the trees. Without waiting, Henry fires a first wild shot. As his regiment starts blazing away, Henry's individual anxieties disappear:... (full context)
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The lieutenant collars a soldier trying to run away and beats him back into line. Henry sees several soldiers get shot, their faces looking betrayed, their bodies dropping into awkward poses... (full context)
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Henry's regiment repels the enemy charge. Gunfire gives way to the regiment's triumphant cheers. The soldiers... (full context)
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Henry watches the scene around him. A battery of artillery guns is lobbing shells overhead. The... (full context)
Chapter 6
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After a quick nap, Henry wakes and reflects with delight that the test of his courage is over. He feels... (full context)
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Henry feels intimidated by the persistence of the enemy. Who are these guys, anyway? Didn't they... (full context)
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As the fighting begins, a soldier near Henry jumps up and runs away howling. Soon other soldiers drop their guns and flee. Feeling... (full context)
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Henry runs past a battery of artillery gunners and sees reinforcements coming. He feels these soldiers,... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Upon hearing about his regiment's surprising victory, Henry feels as guilty as a criminal. He resents the "stupidity" of his fellow soldiers who... (full context)
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Confused and mentally anguished, Henry wanders into the thick woods. He throws a pine cone at a squirrel who runs... (full context)
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Henry pushes deeper into the silent woods to a grove with high branches that resembles a... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...awesomely loud noise of new fighting, "like the grinding of an immense and terrible machine." Henry thinks that the earlier fight must have been nothing compared to this battle. Curious, Henry... (full context)
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Henry runs into a column of bloodied wounded soldiers returning from the front. One laughs and... (full context)
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Walking along, Henry is approached by a dirty, tattered man with two wounds in his head and arm.... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Henry tries to blend in with the wounded soldiers. But after the tattered man's questions, he... (full context)
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The graying spectral soldier walks at Henry's side, refusing everyone's offers to help him. Henry suddenly recognizes him as Jim Conklin. Jim... (full context)
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Spurred on by some strange energy, Jim suddenly bolts away into the fields. Henry is terrified by the sight and chases after Jim with the tattered man. When Jim... (full context)
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Henry is spellbound by Jim's corpse. He stares into Jim's paste-like face and, when Jim's jacket... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...man is awed by Jim's strength and by his strange death. He then admits to Henry that he's also starting to feel very unwell, implying that he'd like Henry's help. Henry... (full context)
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The tattered man tells Henry how he got shot in the head without even knowing it. He then describes Henry... (full context)
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Henry resolves to leave the tattered man and tells him goodbye, even though he knows the... (full context)
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Henry leaves, abandoning the tattered man to wander in the field. Now Henry envies the corpses... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Moving again toward the "furnace roar" of the battle, Henry finds a road packed with retreating wagons and men. This discovery comforts Henry: it seems... (full context)
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Everyone moves aside for a column of soldiers headed to the front lines. Henry perceives them as a glorious "procession of chosen beings" and feels pathetic, totally inadequate by... (full context)
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Henry imagines trading places with one of these men. He pictures himself strong and determined, charging... (full context)
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Henry almost heads to the front lines, but realizes that he has no gear and no... (full context)
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Henry thinks his problem could be solved if the army lost. Then his decision to flee... (full context)
Chapter 12
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Not long after, Henry is shocked to see the very same column of soldiers he had thought so brave... (full context)
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Henry collapses in pain from the bleeding wound on his head, struggling even to crawl. He... (full context)
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On his way to find refuge, Henry passes screaming officers, artillery batteries that "belched and howled like brass devils," and more soldiers... (full context)
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Just then, a cheerful soldier comes along and assures Henry that he'll return him to the regiment. Though the dark woods seem like a huge... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Henry stumbles toward the campfire of his regiment, concerned about being exposed for a coward, but... (full context)
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Henry stammers out a story: separated from the regiment, he saw terrible fighting and got shot... (full context)
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The corporal inspects Henry's wound and concludes that he's been grazed by a bullet, finding "a queer lump jest... (full context)
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...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 gratefully asleep and "in... (full context)
Chapter 14
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In the morning, Henry wakes to the distant sounds of battle, which sound as if they have no beginning... (full context)
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...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 offers him breakfast. When three soldiers nearby... (full context)
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Henry and Wilson talk about the previous day. Wilson says the regiment saw hard fighting, but... (full context)
Chapter 15
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The regiment reassembles and is ready to march. In line, Henry remembers the packet of letters that Wilson had entrusted to him. Henry decides to keep... (full context)
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Feeling like a veteran, Henry forgives himself for his anxieties and internal philosophical debates: they were just youthful delusions. Now... (full context)
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Wilson nervously approaches Henry and asks for his packet of letters back. Seeing that Wilson is blushing with shame,... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...rumors that their army has suffered a terrible defeat. The regiment is pulled back and Henry catches glimpses of the gray enemy and hears their triumphant yells. (full context)
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Henry starts complaining about his commanders, telling other soldiers that the generals must be idiots because... (full context)
Chapter 17
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The assault begins. Henry is furious that the enemy has given them no time to rest, no room to... (full context)
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Henry's regiment starts shooting, creating a wall of smoke. Henry feels like his rifle is a... (full context)
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A voice calls out to Henry to quit. He realizes he's alone in front with no enemies in sight. He turns... (full context)
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The lieutenant praises Henry, saying that if he had ten thousand "wild cats" like Henry he could win the... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...of their own 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,... (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... (full context)
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Disheartened, Henry and Wilson return to their regiment to share the news of their impending charge. They... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Henry's regiment stumbles forward to start their charge across a clearing. Enemy gunfire erupts from the... (full context)
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Focusing on a distant clump of trees, Henry runs unconsciously ahead of the pack, looking crazed, like an "insane soldier." He feels as... (full context)
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But 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... (full context)
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Henry sees the color sergeant get shot and stumble. He and Wilson each lunge for the... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Henry and Wilson scuffle to carry the flag, each wanting to put himself at greater risk.... (full context)
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Henry realizes that his wish to prove the insulting officer wrong will not come true. Ashamed... (full context)
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...advancing through the smoke and a vicious and desperate fight breaks out at close range. Henry sits on the ground with the flag, consoled only that his regiment will go down... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...soldiers. They are met with jeers and sarcastic questions from veteran soldiers still in reserve. Henry's regiment is insulted and angry, but Henry realizes that the distance they covered to the... (full context)
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The insulting officer storms over and complains to the colonel of Henry's regiment that they stopped too short, just 100 feet from victory. Apparently, the charge was... (full context)
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...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 hard as they... (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... (full context)
Chapter 22
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As his regiment awaits its next assault, Henry feels calm and self-confident. He becomes absorbed in watching the fighting down the line and... (full context)
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A "churchlike" silence descends just before the gunfire becomes a colossal roar. Henry's ears are overwhelmed. His regiment, depleted but ready, charges again into the field. Henry stands... (full context)
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Henry's regiment notices a group of enemy soldiers running toward a fence nearby. They fire vigorously... (full context)
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Still angry with the insulting officer, Henry resolves not to budge, hoping to prove that his regiment is not a bunch of... (full context)
Chapter 23
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The colonel orders Henry's regiment to charge: they must retake that fence. To Henry's surprise, the soldiers are not... (full context)
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The soldiers spring forward with new energy, feeling reckless and unselfish. Henry runs in front of the men of his regiment, carrying the flag and shrieking encouragements. (full context)
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Seeing the mad charge of Henry's regiment, many of the gray soldiers run away. However, a handful of determined enemy soldiers... (full context)
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Henry's regiment stops and fires a devastating volley at close range. Henry sees that the enemy's... (full context)
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Henry's regiment celebrates. They've captured four men: one ignores the blue soldiers; one yells horrible curses... (full context)
Chapter 24
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During the walk, Henry's mindset changes from hardened battle-mode to more everyday thoughts. He starts to study all of... (full context)
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Henry then remembers the tattered man and cringes. As the regiment chats about their victory, Henry... (full context)
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Henry thinks he sees things with new eyes. He realizes that, in the big picture, he... (full context)
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It starts to rain and the soldiers grumble as they trudge through the mud. But Henry smiles, believing again that he has a place in the world. Relieved to be out... (full context)