The Red Badge of Courage | Study Guide

Stephen Crane

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Course Hero. "The Red Badge of Courage Study Guide." Course Hero. 27 Feb. 2017. Web. 15 Nov. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Red-Badge-of-Courage/>.

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Course Hero. (2017, February 27). The Red Badge of Courage Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 15, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Red-Badge-of-Courage/

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Course Hero. "The Red Badge of Courage Study Guide." February 27, 2017. Accessed November 15, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Red-Badge-of-Courage/.

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Course Hero, "The Red Badge of Courage Study Guide," February 27, 2017, accessed November 15, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Red-Badge-of-Courage/.

The Red Badge of Courage | Chapter 5 | Summary

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Summary

As cries of "Here they come!" run up and down the line, the youth can't remember if his gun is loaded or not. The captain cautions the men to hold their fire until the enemy is closer. Once the youth starts firing his gun, he stops thinking of himself and becomes one with the other men: "He felt the subtle battle brotherhood more potent even than the cause for which they were fighting." His emotions turn to a "red rage" and he has a desire to strangle men with his bare hands. No one displays "heroic poses," but rage spurs the soldiers to repeatedly load and fire their guns.

The lieutenant encounters one man who has run away and beats him back to the line. Men, including the captain, are killed and many are wounded. The youth's regiment has repulsed the charge and cheers go up and down the line. The youth, looking around for the first time, sees the "ghastly forms" of dead bodies "twisted in fantastic contortions." He also realizes other skirmishes are being fought around him and is surprised to see the "blue, pure sky and the sun-gleamings on the trees and fields."

Analysis

The youth surprises himself by fighting bravely. It's important that he feels the "brotherhood" of fighting with his comrades: he loses his sense of self and becomes one with the unit. This quells his fears because the unit, which is bigger than he, protects him. The sense that this brotherhood is under attack spawns a rage that is more "potent even than the cause for which they were fighting." In this way the instinct for survival becomes the soldiers' cause rather than the political cause they have been commissioned to fight for.

The natural setting—river, hills, fields, trees—are a key part of the war, and the beauty of nature a key theme of the novel. But for the first time in the novel, they are set in juxtaposition to the smoke, noise, and dirt of battle. The youth is surprised to see the blue sky and sun, indicating that nature continues regardless of the destruction the men inflict against each other.

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