The Red Badge of Courage
How we cite our quotes:
The men dropped here and there like bundles. The captain of the youth's company had been killed in an early part of the action. His body lay stretched out in the position of a tired man resting, but upon his face there was an astonished and sorrowful look, as if he thought some friend had done him an ill turn. The babbling man was grazed by a shot that made the blood stream widely down his face. He clapped both hand to his head. "Oh!" he said, and ran. Another grunted suddenly as if he had been struck by a club in the stomach. He sat down and gazed ruefully. In his eyes there was mute, indefinite reproach. Farther up the line a man, standing behind a tree, had had his knee joint splintered by a ball. Immediately he had dropped his rifle and gripped the tree with both arms. And there he remained, clinging desperately and crying for assistance that he might withdraw his hold upon the tree (5.25).
Red Badge makes the point that there is nothing brave or amazing about being injured and dying, even in war. Death is just an act that reduces humans to the bags of bones that we essentially are.
"Sing a song 'a vic'try, A pocketful 'a bullets, Five an' twenty dead men Baked in a–pie." Parts of the procession limped and staggered to this tune.
An officer was carried along by two privates. He was peevish. "Don't joggle so, Johnson, yeh fool," he cried. "Think m' leg is made of iron? If yeh can't carry me decent, put me down an' let some one else do it" (8.17-20).
The sheer lunacy and madness that is pain and death is painted skillfully here.
Once the men who headed the wild procession turned and came pushing back against their comrades, screaming that they were being fired upon from points which they had considered to be toward their own lines. At this cry a hysterical fear and dismay beset the troops. A soldier, who heretofore had been ambitious to make the regiment into a wise little band that would proceed calmly amid the huge-appearing difficulties, suddenly sank down and buried his face in his arms with an air of bowing to a doom (20.15).
In Red Badge, war is characterized by a complete chaos and confusion. There is neither order nor understanding in the battles we see here.