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Free Barron's Booknotes Summary-The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
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CHAPTER 23

In this chapter the youth, his friend, and the regiment all behave extremely bravely. For all of them the heroic activity is automatic ("there was no obvious questioning, nor figurings, nor diagrams"). All display the frenzy, enthusiasm, and unselfishness praised by the narrator in Chapter 19. There is a suggestion of barbarism in the youth's feeling "like a savage, religion-mad" (we remember that in Chapter 17 he had fought "like a pagan who defends his religion") and in his vision of the Confederate flag as a "treasure of mythology." He feels a "wild battle madness." The description of the regiment's final thrust at the Confederate soldiers, "racing as if to achieve a sudden success before an exhilarating fluid should leave them," has an almost sexual suggestion.


This is also a chapter of vivid color. The men "in dusty and tattered blue" rush "over a green sward and under a sapphire sky," while the youth "kept the bright colors to the front." The Confederate flag has a "red brilliancy."

The regiment takes four prisoners. One nursed a wounded foot, and swore at the blue soldiers as if someone had stepped on his foot accidentally. Another, a young boy, seemed composed, and talked cheerfully with his captors. The third looked sad and said no more than "Ah, go t' hell!" The fourth was silent, and seemed to be overwhelmed by shame. The attitudes of these Confederate prisoners greatly resemble those of the Union soldiers, a closing irony.

NOTE:

We don't meet many Confederate soldiers inThe Red Badge of Courage, but whenever we do they seem to be very much like Henry and his buddies. Can you think of any time in the novel when any of the soldiers have talked or thought about why they're fighting, or what the war is about? What does this say about Crane's view of wars in general and the Civil War in particular?

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Free Barron's Booknotes Summary-The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
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