The Red Badge of Courage | Study Guide

Stephen Crane

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The Red Badge of Courage | Chapter 9 | Summary



Henry, still self-absorbed, thinks the wounded soldiers can see his guilt; he begins to envy them: "He wished that he, too, had a wound, a red badge of courage." He finds himself next to the spectral soldier and realizes with horror it is his friend from home, Jim Conklin, the tall soldier. Having been described earlier as having a "gray seal of death already upon his face," Jim fears falling down and being run over by an artillery wagon; Henry says he will take care of him. The tall soldier presses firmly on, waving aside Henry's offer to lean on him. The tattered soldier advises Henry to take Jim off the road so he doesn't get run over by the approaching battery wagon. Jim surprises both Henry and the tattered soldier by running into a field. Jim finally stops, demands to be left alone, starts to shudder and shake and finally dies. Henry sees that Jim's side looks like "it had been chewed by wolves." Henry, with a "sudden, livid rage" swears for the first time in the novel.


Henry, thinking his guilt is evident to all around him, envies the wounded and wishes he has a red badge of courage. Henry's wound is psychological and is not visible to others. He believes a bloody wound would indicate he fought bravely and stood up to the enemy.

The wounded soldiers all possess varying degrees of an internal strength to survive, but all the men marvel at Jim's strength when it is obvious to them he is about to die. Henry, in an act of maturity, steps outside of himself and offers to watch over Jim and make sure he is not run over by a battery. Henry's anguish at Jim's death turns to rage when he sees the brutality of Jim's wound, again turning the enemy into animals rather than men.

Many critics view Jim Conklin, whose initials perhaps tellingly are J.C., as a Christ figure. Jim's death scene includes references to a whipping, bloody hands, and a fatal wound to his side, all of which allude to the death of Jesus Christ. Jim's death is so horrific that it seems to question the presence of God in war, and for Jim, a Christ-figure in a realist text, there is no resurrection. Instead, his sacrifice offers something to Henry: a model of a man and a soldier who accepts the inevitability of his death. In addition Jim's death causes Henry to feel a personal rage rather than the collective rage he experienced as part of the fighting brotherhood. In some ways Henry's ability to merge the personal and the collective may be his only real defense in war.

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