The Red Badge of Courage | Study Guide

Stephen Crane

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The Red Badge of Courage | Chapter 24 | Summary



The fighting recedes from where the men are resting, and they are ordered to return across the field to their regiment. The regiment joins other regiments to form a brigade, and they march through the woods. As they head toward the river, Henry realizes the fighting is over. He rejoices over surviving a place "where there was red of blood and black of passion." Henry reflects on his deeds gleefully: "His public deeds were paraded in great and shining prominence," witnessed by other soldiers.

But he then thinks of fleeing the previous day and feels shame. He feels remorse over abandoning the tattered soldier, who was concerned over Henry's unseen injury and who had given the last of his strength to help the tall soldier. His cruelty toward the tattered soldier "darkened his view of these deeds in purple and gold." After a while Henry is able to "put his sin at a distance" and despises his earlier bombastic speeches. Henry feels reassured: with "a quiet manhood, nonassertive but of sturdy and strong blood ... He was a man."


As the troops return to their camps, Henry once again has time to reflect. While he is proud of his actions in battle and knows any story he tells when he returns home can be verified because it was witnessed by other men, he has remorse over his actions of the previous day, especially toward the tattered soldier. Henry now realizes the meaning of being a comrade to his fellow soldiers—offering help, being kind and supportive, putting others before self—which is a necessary lesson for manhood. In this way the deaths of the soldiers along the way take on meaning in their impact on Henry. They died not only for a national cause but for a personal cause, as well. Their deaths support both the building of a nation and the building of a man.

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