The Red Badge of Courage
Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
The youth felt triumphant at this exhibition. There was the law, he said. Nature had given him a sign. The squirrel, immediately upon recognizing danger, had taken to his legs without ado. He did not stand stolidly baring his furry belly to the missile, and die with an upward glance at the sympathetic heavens. On the contrary, he had fled as fast as his legs could carry him; and he was but an ordinary squirrel, too – doubtless no philosopher of his race. The youth wended, feeling that Nature was of his mind. She re-enforced his argument (7.15).
Henry is right; it is natural to run away. His justification for fighting at the end of the novel, then, has to transcend this reasoning.
His fingers twined nervously about his rifle. He wished that it was an engine of annihilating power. He felt that he and his companions were being taunted and derided from sincere convictions that they were poor and puny. His knowledge of his inability to take vengeance for it made his rage into a dark and stormy specter, that possessed him and made him dream of abominable cruelties. The tormentors were flies sucking insolently at his blood, and he thought that he would have given his life for a revenge of seeing their faces in pitiful plights (17.6).
Henry takes issue with his insignificance in a large and fierce world. The realization that he is just one man, "poor and puny," is a horrifying thought for a guy facing death.
Over the river a golden ray of sun came through the hosts of leaden rain clouds (24.34).
We’ve talked about Henry’s discovery of the indifference of nature to the events of battle. It’s odd, then, that nature seems in tune with Henry’s revelation and transformation in the final line of the novel. What do you make of that?