The Red Badge of Courage | Study Guide

Stephen Crane

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The Red Badge of Courage | Chapter 22 | Summary



While his regiment rests, Henry observes intense battles going on around him with "serene self-confidence," and he notices that his side is winning the battles. As the noise of the battles increases and the two sides lunge forward and attack, the thick smoke prevents Henry from seeing who is winning each battle.

When the time comes, his regiment renews their fighting with fury and fierceness. The lieutenant, newly bandaged, returns to the line and urges his men on. As standard bearer, Henry does not fight but intently watches the battle. The men, upon seeing the enemy so close, let forth a volley of bullets without waiting for the order to shoot. The enemy saves itself by hiding behind a line of fence, and the battle intensifies. The men of the 304th fight "swiftly and with a despairing savageness denoted in their expressions." Henry resolves not to move and believes the best way to retaliate against the officer who called them "mule drivers" and "mud diggers" is to die. While Wilson continues to fight stoutly, other men are wounded and killed, and the regiment begins to weaken.


During the intensity of the battle, Henry acts bravely and keeps the flag at the front of the line. He knows the men will follow the flag, and he would rather die than prove the officer right that the men of the 304th Regiment are "mule drivers." The formerly green troops are gaining battle experience and with this experience comes the ability to fight by intuition rather than by orders alone; they are fighting as a cohesive unit and are stronger because of it.

Henry's acceptance of death illustrates further maturity. As he accepts the inevitability of death, he also shows his willingness to sacrifice himself for his men and for their cause. This shift of thinking shows that Henry finds meaning rather than mere destruction in a soldier's death—something that hearkens back to the death of Jim Conklin.

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