The Red Badge of Courage
Duty Quotes Page 3
How we cite our quotes:
As he noted the vicious, wolflike temper of his comrades he had a sweet thought that if the enemy was about to swallow the regimental broom as a large prisoner, it could at least have the consolation of going down with bristles forward (20.26).
Note that Henry fulfills his duty not only in action, but in thought, too. His mental loyalty is what enables his loyalty in battle.
"'Mr. Hasbrouck!' he ses, 'by th' way, who was that lad what carried th' flag?' he ses. There, Flemin', what d' yeh think 'a that? 'Who was th' lad what carried th' flag?' he ses, an' th' lieutenant, he speaks up right away: 'That's Flemin', an' he's a jimhickey,' he ses, right away. […] and th' colonel, he ses: 'Ahem! ahem! he is, indeed, a very good man t' have, ahem! He kep' th' flag 'way t' th' front. I saw 'im. He's a good un,' ses th' colonel. 'You bet,' ses th' lieutenant, 'he an' a feller named Wilson was at th' head 'a th' charge […] He ses: 'Well, well, well,' he ses. 'They deserve t' be major-generals'" (21.41).
Bearing the flag is one of the most dangerous jobs in the army because you’re at the front of the line, you have no weapon, and you’re basically carrying a big old "fire here!" target. It’s pretty crazy that Henry has to risk his life to this degree to be praised by his superiors.
The youth had centered the gaze of his soul upon that other flag. Its possession would be high pride. It would express bloody minglings, near blows (23.12).
Henry tries to process his sense of duty through symbols. The flag is his way of understanding and making concrete his obligation to his regiment.