The Red Badge of Courage
How we cite our quotes:
Thoughts of his comrades came to him. The brittle blue line had withstood the blows and won. He grew bitter over it. It seemed that the blind ignorance and stupidity of those little pieces had betrayed him. He had been overturned and crushed by their lack of sense in holding the position, when intelligent deliberation would have convinced them that it was impossible. He, the enlightened man who looks afar in the dark, had fled because of his superior perceptions and knowledge. He felt a great anger against his comrades. He knew it could be proved that they had been fools (7.3).
Henry rationalizes his desertion, which means we’re seeing more mental cowardice. Remember, Henry’s journey isn’t about running from battle and then fighting in battle; it’s about the mental growth he undergoes. He finds courage through his mindset, which then dictates his actions.
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 (9.3).
It’s ironic that Henry’s first injury is the result of a fight with another Union soldier, driven by fear and miscommunication rather than valor.
He wondered what those men had eaten that they could be in such haste to force their way to grim chances of death. As he watched his envy grew until he thought that he wished to change lives with one of them. He would have liked to have used a tremendous force, he said, throw off himself and become a better. Swift pictures of himself, apart, yet in himself, came to him--a blue desperate figure leading lurid charges with one knee forward and a broken blade high--a blue, determined figure standing before a crimson and steel assault, getting calmly killed on a high place before the eyes of all. He thought of the magnificent pathos of his dead body (11.9).
Henry’s death wish represents the true desperation in his own abilities and courage.