For Henry, wounds are a "red badge of courage" to show off like a Purple Heart medal—the modern military award given to soldiers wounded in combat. Henry wants a wound to prove that he fought bravely and sacrificed himself. But wounds in Red Badge are not that simple. They reveal the flip side of Henry's romantic ideas: the grim reality of war wounds. For example, after he's wounded, Jim looks like his whole side had been "chewed by wolves." Wounds reveal the ironies of war, too: when Henry gets his own wound, it comes when a fellow Union soldier strikes him with a rifle butt to get Henry out of his way. Henry then must lie to his regiment about the wound's origin. Wounds also don't have to be physical. The tattered man reflects Henry's internal wounds—his guilt for running away and abandoning people.
Wounds Quotes in The Red Badge of Courage
The The Red Badge of Courage quotes below all refer to the symbol of Wounds. 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 9 Quotes
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.
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.
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.
Chapter 13 Quotes
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.
Wounds Symbol Timeline in The Red Badge of Courage
The timeline below shows where the symbol Wounds appears in The Red Badge of Courage. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.