Red Badge uses the language of machines, labor, and industry to describe war. In contrast, Henry dreams about a classical idealized kind of war. But that kind of romanticized war, emphasizing heroic action, is a thing of the fictional past: it has no relation to an industrial war such as the Civil War, in which individual soldiers become cogs in a much larger machine. As Red Badge reveals, the war machine is designed to move massive armies and churn out corpses. (Machine guns were used for the first time in the Civil War.) Machines are unsympathetic, unthinking, and impersonal, and the war machine makes Henry's hopes for personal glory seem pathetic, even tragic. Crane also uses the theme of a mechanized war to make a grim comment on the industrialism of the late 19th century and its dehumanizing effect on laborers.
The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of The War Machine 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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Below you will find the important quotes in The Red Badge of Courage related to the theme of The War Machine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
"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."
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.
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.
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.