By definition, flags are symbols of something else, such as a state or country. In Red Badge, battle flags symbolize the opposing armies. More importantly, they represent a soldier's need to believe in his army and in the war itself. The flag transcends individual concerns and represents the soldiers as a collective force. The political symbolism of Civil War flags is mostly absent from Red Badge. Instead, they are compared to beautiful colorful birds. Flags in Red Badge are symbols about symbols, about the abstract causes for which soldiers put their lives on the line. When he takes over as flag-bearer, Henry is safeguarding all of the symbols that hold his world together.
Flags Quotes in The Red Badge of Courage
The The Red Badge of Courage quotes below all refer to the symbol of Flags. 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: 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 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.
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.
Flags Symbol Timeline in The Red Badge of Courage
The timeline below shows where the symbol Flags appears in The Red Badge of Courage. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...scene around him. A battery of artillery guns is lobbing shells overhead. The Union battle flag flies again over distant troops. And to Henry's astonishment, the sun shines brightly in the... (full context)
...regiment stops and fires a devastating volley at close range. Henry sees that the enemy's flag bearer is mortally wounded. Henry wants that flag for himself as a prize. But Wilson... (full context)