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Free Study Guide-The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane-Online Summary
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CHAPTER 9

Summary

The Youth falls back in the procession of wounded men. He feels that all the injured soldiers are a reproach to him. He worries that his shame is visible to them, for he feels he has the letters of guilt written on his forehead. Henry wishes he had a physical wound, a red badge of courage, like the other soldiers.

The Youth finds himself walking beside a mortally wounded man, whose side looks like it has been chewed by wolves; he is obviously in great pain. Henry recognizes the man as Jim Conklin. He cannot utter a word other than, "Oh, Jim--oh, Jim--oh, Jim--." Jim repeatedly says that he has been shot and then asks Henry where he has been. Suddenly, Jim seems overcome with fear and tells the Youth that he is afraid he will fall down and be run over by the artillery wagon. The Youth, sobbing, promises to take care of Jim.

The Tattered Soldier returns and tells Henry that the artillery battery is coming and that they should get Conklin off the road before it arrives. Conklin becomes grim, almost ghost-like, and tells Henry to leave him alone. The Youth ignores the request and takes Jim off the road. All the while, he is saying, "Leave me be." The Youth is joined by the Tattered Man, and they both follow Jim, who travels with "rite-like" movements towards the bushes. He soon stops and seems to be waiting patiently for something or someone. Then his chest heaves violently and he seems to be strangulating. He stiffens and straightens, with a look of dignity on his face. He moves in a tremor-like dance and then swings forward like a falling tree. The Youth shakes his fist at the battlefield and yells, "Hell--." The chapter ends by saying, "The red sun was pasted in the sky like a wafer."


Notes

This chapter contains Crane's realism at its best. It is largely preoccupied with the death of Jim Conklin, who is Henry's friend from home. The Youth is shocked to meet up with his friend, mortally wounded and on the verge of death. He cries at the thought of losing his childhood friend and promises to take care of him. When the Youth learns from the Tattered Man that the artillery battery is coming, Henry leads Jim off the road to protect him. Jim bolts for the bushes, knowing he is about to die. The Youth follows and watches the horrible death of his friend. The war suddenly takes on a new meaning for him. Henry turns to the battlefield, shakes his fist, and screams, "Hell!" Now that his one friend from home is gone, the Youth feels more isolated than ever; he also feels intensified guilt that he left the battle that killed Jim Conklin.

It is important to notice that this chapter provides the answer as to what the novel's title means. According to Henry, the red badge of courage is a wound suffered in battle. At the beginning of the chapter, Henry longs to have a red badge of courage, a symbol of honor. He feels he would be happy if only his body were torn like the other men. Then he meets up with Conklin, a personal friend, and sees his side, which has been eaten away by bullets. He watches his friend horribly suffer and then courageously die from the wound. Suddenly, the red badge of courage has a new meaning for the Youth. The ritual of Conklin's death is confirmed by nature. The chapter ends with a description of the wafer of the red sun pasted in the sky; it is an image of the communion (Eucharist) bread and a confirmation of the red bad of courage. It is as if nature is solemnizing the man's courage in the face of death.

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