The Red Badge of Courage
The Red Badge of Courage Duty Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
A dull, animal-like rebellion against his fellows, war in the abstract, and fate grew within him. He shambled along with bowed head, his brain in a tumult of agony and despair. When he looked loweringly up, quivering at each sound, his eyes had the expression of those of a criminal who thinks his guilt little and his punishment great, and knows that he can find no words (7.3).
What is the difference between duty to the self and duty to the army in Red Badge? Are these necessarily conflicting principles?
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. He had considered the time, he said, to be one in which it was the duty of every little piece to rescue itself if possible. […] It was all plain that he had proceeded according to very correct and commendable rules (7.4).
Henry alters the meaning of "duty" to serve his purposes. Much like "courage," this is a subjective term in Red Badge.
While he had been tossed by many emotions, he had not been aware of ailments. Now they beset him and made clamor. As he was at last compelled to pay attention to them, his capacity for self-hate was multiplied. In despair, he declared that he was not like those others. He now conceded it to be impossible that he should ever become a hero. He was a craven loon. Those pictures of glory were piteous things. He groaned from his heart and went staggering off (11.18).
Henry is more concerned that he be like the other soldiers than for his own safety. His desire to be courageous is really just his desire to conform.