The Red Badge of Courage

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.

Corpses Quotes in The Red Badge of Courage

The The Red Badge of Courage quotes below all refer to the symbol of Corpses. 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 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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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Chapter 5 Quotes
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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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 7 Quotes
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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident,

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pari

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 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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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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)