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The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage


by Stephen Crane

Henry Fleming ("The Youth") Timeline and Summary

  • Henry is waiting impatiently for some sort of battle to begin.
  • Henry remembers how he ended up in the Union army; he thinks about his mother and her sadness at his enlisting.
  • The longer Henry has to wait for the fighting to start, the more he doubts his own bravery.
  • Henry starts to obsess about running away from battle.
  • Henry tries to get other soldiers to admit that they are afraid, but no one seems to share his trepidation.
  • Henry’s regiment is finally on the march. The other soldiers seem happy to be moving.
  • Henry wishes he were back on the farm.
  • Henry again tries to get another soldier to admit that he will run during battle. This solder is pissed.
  • Henry falls asleep, feeling quite bad about himself and his fears.
  • Henry’s regiment walks for days for no apparent reason. Henry grumbles.
  • Henry sees his first dead man but cannot find an answer to "the Question" in its eyes.
  • Henry gets mad at the leaders who seem to have them marching around endlessly. He thinks that if he died his problems would be over.
  • Henry is given a packet of letters by Wilson, "the Loud Soldier," who expects to die in battle.
  • Henry and the men argue and gossip about how various soldiers and regiments have fared in battle. They blather on in a macho way.
  • Suddenly the fighting starts. Henry does surprisingly well and he feels pretty cool. Pretty thundering cool, that is.
  • Before Henry can rest, the shooting begins again. This time, Henry freaks out. He hightails it. Just like he knew he always would.
  • Henry rationalizes his actions. He tries to pretend he was smart to run.
  • As Henry tries to hide, he comes face to face with an ant-ridden dead guy.
  • The battle sounds get incredibly loud and Henry’s curiosity gets the better of him. He heads back.
  • He meets "the Tattered Soldier" who asks kindly where Henry’s injury is. Henry rudely ditches "the Tattered Soldier."
  • Henry sees all the wounded men and envies them for their "red badges of courage." He wishes he had one of his very own.
  • Henry meets the "spectral soldier" who turns out to be his friend, Jim Conklin, who also turns out to be dying in a really horrible way.
  • Henry and "the Tattered Soldier" try to help Jim, who is unfortunately mortally wounded.
  • Henry is shocked and appalled by Jim’s rather gruesome death.
  • Henry gets pissed when "the Tattered Soldier" asks him repeatedly where his wound is.
  • Henry again wishes he were dead.
  • Henry sees a group of soldiers he could join, but then he worries they might ask him where on earth he’s been.
  • A whole bunch of soldiers run past Henry. He grabs one and asks him what the thunder is going on. This soldier whomps him a good one in the head (with his rifle).
  • Henry falls down and nearly passes out, but now he has a red badge of his own.
  • As Henry wimbles and weaves around, a "cheery soldier" takes care of him and then conveniently disappears.
  • Henry is now back with his own regiment – the 304th.
  • Everyone is glad to see him.
  • Henry lies and says he was shot in the head. They conclude he must have been merely grazed by a passing bullet.
  • When Henry wakes up, his head is swollen.
  • Henry and the soldiers are on the march again.
  • Henry feels superior to Wilson ("the Loud Soldier" who is now not so loud) because Wilson, anticipating his own death, wimpily gave him those letters.
  • Henry gives Wilson (who is all embarrassed) the letters back upon request.
  • Henry is overly proud of himself (to put it mildly).
  • Henry voices his disapproval of the generals’ tactics. A soldier asks him if he thinks he fought yesterday’s battle single-handedly.
  • Henry feels terrible because, of course, he didn’t fight at all.
  • The battle begins and this time Henry is a battle-warrior. He shoots and reloads so fast and so furiously that his gun gets too hot to hold.
  • Henry is praised by his lieutenant.
  • Henry and Wilson volunteer to go get water. They overhear a general describing their unit as "mule drivers." This general is quite happy to sacrifice them in the next (apparently hopeless) battle.
  • Henry and his mule drivers engage in battle.
  • Henry is tired, but his lieutenant yells at him and calls him a "lunkhead," which seems to do the trick.
  • Henry and the men charge ahead. Henry sees their flag bearer get wounded. He grabs the flag and carries it. He is now the official flag bearer.
  • Henry is thrilled when the general who had called them "mule drivers" now thinks Henry is the bomb. (The actual term the general used was "jimhickey.")
  • Henry and the other men are forced back into battle. This time they can actually see the men they are fighting.
  • Henry feels that he should die on this very field to prove himself.
  • Instead, he and Wilson capture the enemy’s flag and are triumphant.
  • Henry sees the captured Confederate soldiers and realizes with a start that they are no different than he is.
  • Henry realizes that the battle is over.
  • Henry re-thinks everything that has happened to him, good and bad. He feels that finally, he is a man.
  • Henry is now done with war and the "red sickness of battle."