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THE CHARACTERS (continued)
• THE TATTERED MAN
Henry encounters the tattered man when, fleeing from his regiment, he falls in with a group of wounded soldiers. The tattered man appears to be simple and innocent. When we first meet him he is listening to a sergeant with such awe that the sergeant begins to laugh at him. The tattered man is almost pathetically eager to make friends with Henry. Unfortunately for him, his questions about Henry's nonexistent wound scare the young soldier off.
The tattered man and Henry meet again in Chapter 9, when the tattered man helps him to take care of Jim Conklin. The tattered man is impressed by Conklin's bravery, but he is too unsophisticated to express his admiration in more than the simplest language (he calls Jim's death "funny"). He is extremely sympathetic to what he imagines to be Henry's wounds (and he's right that Henry has a "queer hurt" inside, although he doesn't know how right). He is uncomplaining about his own injury, and bravely insists that he isn't going to die. But Henry, afraid the tattered man will figure out that he's not wounded, leaves him, probably to die alone.
It is hard to know what to make of the tattered man. The constant reference to him as "tattered" almost suggests a clown, and his simplicity causes the sergeant in Chapter 8 to call him a "yokel." Still, the tattered man is brave, kind, and responsible to others. Henry's response to him shows the young soldier at his worst, and as a foil to Henry, he plays an important role in the novel. But it is a little hard to believe the tattered man is quite real. Henry, his mother, Wilson, and Jim Conklin are described in at least some realistic detail. Despite references to his two children, and to his wish for a warm bed and a bowl of pea soup, the tattered man does not seem to be a fully realized character.
• THE CHEERY-VOICED MAN
This character not only lacks a name, but Henry never even sees his face. Still, the cheery-voiced man, in guiding Henry back to his regiment, makes a contribution to the book. His skill at threading his way through the woods and among the patrols, and his easygoing calm, make him seem magical to Henry, and so to us. But he appears to be a perfectly ordinary man.
• BILL SMITHERS
Bill Smithers is a very minor character, but he is an interesting one. In Chapter 2, before we know his name, someone steps on his hand, and he swears loudly. In Chapter 4 we learn that Bill went to the hospital with his so-called wound. But when the doctor threatened to cut off his three crushed fingers-presumably in order to scare Bill out of malingering-Bill wouldn't let him. The soldier who tells this story laughs at Bill, saying that he wasn't scared, oh no, just mad.
Bill Smithers is a figure of fun who often pops up in the regiment's conversations. In the heat of battle in Chapter 6, a tired soldier wishes that Bill Smithers had stepped on his hand instead of he on Bill's. And in the last chapter another soldier announces that Bill says that the hospital, which is shelled every night, is more dangerous than ten thousand battles.
Bill Smithers serves some important functions in the novel, although he doesn't appear after Chapter 2. He, like Henry, is only pretending to be wounded. But while Henry came back to the regiment after being hurt, Bill took advantage of his phony wound to sit out the rest of the war in the hospital. That tells us that Henry did have some choice, and makes us think that his return to his regiment showed some guts. But Henry was terrified of being thought a coward, while Bill Smithers doesn't seem to mind it. The men joke about him, but he is the author of the joke. This also contrasts with Henry's attitude.
• LIEUTENANT HASBROUCK
Hasbrouck, the young lieutenant of the 304th regiment, is always swearing. He is also, without thinking about it, extremely brave. Unlike the other officers we see, who don't have much concern for the enlisted men, Hasbrouck defends his soldiers' performance and makes sure they get the recognition they deserve. Always at the head of his troops, uncomplaining when he is wounded, Hasbrouck is a real leader. He is a model of what Henry and Wilson will achieve by the novel's end.