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The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage


by Stephen Crane

The Red Badge of Courage Chapter 17 Summary

  • This is the decisive chapter. This is the chapter in which the old "child-like" Henry becomes the new "man-like" Henry. It’s the turning point of the whole novel. You should probably read it.
  • OK, so one minute Henry is waiting angrily for battle to begin, and the next he turns into a wild beast, a hell-cat-fighting-machine.
  • He loads and shoots and reloads and shoots and shoots and shoots. Until his rifle is as hot as the proverbial fryin’ pan.
  • He now runs toward the enemy without regard for his safety.
  • He is a madman, a "war-devil," a "barbarian," a "beast."
  • The Confederates run away like Sunday School children playing hide-and-seek. (Simile city!) Henry continues to shoot at nothing until he realizes the men are laughing at him; the battle is over. (Seriously, Henry, rifle-shooting was so five minutes ago.)
  • Once the mocking is done, the other men declare their love for Henry. Henry is their new God! ("Hot work! Hot work!" cries the lieutenant deliriously (17.27).)
  • Henry isn’t sure how to react to this, especially since he doesn’t feel like it was really him doing all that fighting. He feels like he fell asleep and woke up when it was over.
  • The men rejoice and recite this lovely poem: "A dog, a woman, an’ a walnut tree, Th’ more yeh beat ‘em, th’ better they be!" (17.32)
  • And that’s not misogynistic at all.

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