The Red Badge of Courage | Study Guide

Stephen Crane

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The Red Badge of Courage | Chapter 15 | Summary



While the regiment is standing at order, Henry holds on to the packet Wilson had given him the day before when he thought he would die in battle; Henry wants to use it as "a small weapon" to deflect Wilson when he asks Henry for details about the fighting he engaged in yesterday. Henry's self-pride has returned and since no one has discovered that he fled the fighting in fear, he feels he is "still a man." Henry again turns to thought; he decides not to worry about the 24 hours in front of him and to leave everything to chance: "a faith in himself had secretly blossomed," and "there was a little flower of confidence growing within him."

He also realizes he had seen the enemy, and they were not as accurate and stout as he had imagined. He begins to return to the Homeric ideals he believed in before he went into battle and thinks, "How could they kill him who was the chosen of gods and doomed to greatness?" He does not place himself among those who fled in terror; rather he believes "he had fled with discretion and dignity." Wilson asks for his packet of letters back and is ashamed by his previous actions. Seeing Wilson's suffering, Henry feels his heart grow "strong and stout," and he congratulates himself for never having felt such shame for his own actions.


Chapter 15 is pivotal to Henry's emotional growth, encompassing aspects of his youth and of the man he is turning in to. On one hand, he displays his immaturity by holding on to Wilson's packet of letters as blackmail if Wilson questions him about his wound; he also colors his actions of the day before with Homeric ideals of war, convincing himself he is chosen for greatness and that "he had fled with discretion and dignity"—another example of dramatic irony where readers understand the truth.

Henry begins to show signs of maturity when he thinks it best not to think about what the day's battles will bring. In doing so he is not allowing himself to wallow in introspection and lose his confidence. He also does not tease Wilson when Wilson asks for his letters back; on one hand, this lack of teasing is a sign of maturity. On the other hand, there is heavy dramatic irony when, seeing Wilson's shame, Henry reflects how "he had never been compelled to blush in such a manner for his acts; he was an individual of extraordinary virtues." The reader knows this is not true: Henry spent the greater part of the previous day torn over his act of running away from battle.

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