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The Red Badge of Courage
Summary: Chapter XVI
The men are led to a group of trenches where Wilson promptly falls asleep. For a time, rumors fly fast and fierce as to the conduct of the battle and the activities of the enemy.
Briefly, Henry glimpses a column of gray-suited enemy soldiers, and his regiment is quickly marched into the forest.
Henry begins complaining bitterly about his army’s leadership, blaming the generals for their failure to win battles.
When another soldier mocks him, however, Henry falls silent, afraid that he will be exposed as a fraud.
The lieutenant shepherds the men to a spot in the woods.
where he says they will encounter the enemy in only a few minutes. As the battle roar swells to a thunder, the men wearily await the fight.
Summary: Chapter XVII
After a maddening and intense period of waiting for the inevitable, the enemy sweeps down upon the line of blue-uniformed men.
Seized by a feverish hatred of the enemy, Henry fights in a frenzy, firing and reloading and refusing to retreat.
In the heat and smoke, he is aware of nothing but his own rage. After a while, he hears one of his comrades laughing and realizes that he is firing at nothing;
battle is over, the enemy has fled. His regiment now regards Henry with awe, regaling him with stories of his ferocious prowess in the combat.
The lieutenant tells Henry that if he had ten thousand “wildcats” like him, he could win the war in a week. Strangely, Henry feels as though he himself had nothing to do with his brave exploits;
rather, it was as if he fell asleep and woke to find himself a knight. The exultant soldiers congratulate one another happily,
and chatter about how many men the enemy lost in the battle.
In the bright blue sky, the sun shines gaily, marred only by a cloud of dark smoke from the fighting.
Analysis: Chapters XVI–XVII
Although he has no firsthand knowledge of battle at the beginning of this chapter, Henry persists in his self-congratulatory and undeservedly condescending behavior by criticizing the generals as incompetents.
Now that a battle is again imminent, however, some of Henry’s comfortable security seems to dissipate.
He again begins to worry—not about his personal safety this time, but about the possibility of being exposed as a fraud.
Though he has been willing to let the views of his companions determine—and even replace—his own perception of truth.
Henry remains uncomfortably conscious of the fact that he is involved in an elaborate lie.
Though it mainly offers brief, impressionistic snapshots of battle
and does not deeply involve the main themes of the novel, Chapter XVII is, in many ways, the turning point in The Red Badge of Courage. Henry’s emotions during this third skirmish change from terror to blind rage.
and as he fights he becomes the wildest and fiercest soldier in the regiment. Again, it is important to note that Henry’s transformation has little to do with conventional notions of bravery;
he does not consciously become a better soldier by renewing his commitment to the Union cause and mustering up his courage.
Instead, his self-awareness—that wellspring of vanity, selfishness, and misguided judgments—suddenly vanishes just as it did in the first battle. Unlike that engagement, however.
Henry no longer feels that he is part of a machine. He simply loses himself in a wild fury directed at himself for having behaved like a coward, at the universe for its indifference,
and at the enemy. One can argue that even at this point, Henry’s narcissism still serves as his primary motivation for behaving like the hero he dreams of being;
ideals of the Union army could not compel him to fight as fiercely as his own frustration with his earlier gutlessness.
Still, knowledge of his successful participation in battle begins to calm Henry’s hypersensitivity to
and dependence on, the opinions of his peers. Whereas Henry once eagerly reveled in any word of praise from his comrades, even unjustified ones, he now seems to distrust their accolades which do not correspond to his own recollection of the fighting.
He perceives that the reality of war does not match its mythology: “By this struggle he had overcome obstacles which he had admitted to be mountains.
They had fallen like paper peaks, and he was now what he called a hero.
he had not been aware of the process.” After this battle, Henry is able to trust that he has performed real and important deeds.
While this realization does not restore his belief in the relevance of humanity’s arbitrary moral conventions to the indifferent universe.
it does commence the painstaking process of his maturation, as he feels the satisfaction of knowing that he has done right.
Summary and Analysis Chapter 21
After repelling the enemy counterattack, Henry and the remainder of his regiment return to their lines where they are greeted with taunts and derogatory comments made by another regiment. Henry is angered by the comments, as are the lieutenant and the red-bearded officer.
Henry looks back at the distance which the regiment covered in the charge, and he realizes, with surprise, that they really had not ventured very far from their line. He begins to think that the jeers of the greeting regiment are justified.
However, as Henry reflects further on the charge, he feels quite happy and contented with his own personal performance during the battle.
As the men are resting, the general who recommended that the 304th lead the charge rides into the camp
and confronts the colonel of the regiment and criticizes the efforts of the men. He wants to know why the regiment could not have gone another 100 feet across the lot.
The regiment’s colonel seems prepared to respond angrily to the critical officer; however, he backs down. The general leaves in a huff.
The lieutenant, who overhears the general’s remarks, begins to defend the regiment’s efforts, but he is rebuffed by the colonel.
The other soldiers, including Henry and Wilson, defend their efforts and recount their efforts with praise. The more they talk, the angrier they get with the general.
When Henry and the regiment return to their lines after their charge, and after repelling the enemy’s counterattack, they are greeted with derision by a waiting regiment.
Henry’s reaction is one of anger. The reader has seen Henry’s anger approach the level of hate on other occasions in recent encounters with the enemy.
Now Henry feels hate even for his fellow troops. He is an anger machine which could boil into hate for anything or anyone who challenges his courage or the courage of his regiment.
This is quite a change from the fearful, doubting Henry whom the reader saw earlier in the book.
At the same time, Henry is also characterized as a realistic soldier
When he reviews the actions of his regiment in terms of the territory covered in the charge, he realizes that the distances covered “were trivial and ridiculous.”
He considers that perhaps the criticism of his regiment by the other regiment is justified. When he sees his disheveled regiment “gulping at their canteens,”.
he feels disgust for their weakness because he thinks of his own behavior and performance during the charge and is quite pleased.
A lieutenant (UK: /lɛfˈtɛnənt/ lef-TEN-ənt or US: /luːˈtɛnənt/ loo-TEN-ənt abbreviated Lt., Lt, LT, Lieut and similar) is a commissioned officer in the armed forces, fire services, police and other organizations of many nations.
- RESOURCE: WIKIPEDIA