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Free Study Guide-The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane-Online Summary
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CHAPTER 22

Summary

When the Youth sees the enemy coming out of the woods, he has serene self-confidence that his regiment can withhold the attack. From his vantage point on a hill, where he holds the flag for all to see, he can watch the fighting. He notices a battle going on between two regiments, who seem to be unaware of the larger purposes of the war. The fighting is fierce. In another direction, he sees a brigade going into the woods, supposedly to drive the enemy out of them. He hears intense noise and then sees the brigade come out of the woods again. On a hill nearby, he sees a row of guns readying for battle. There is a momentary silence, and then the guns on the hill roar. He sees "wild and desperate rushes of men perpetually backward and forward in riotous surges."

The Youth's own emaciated regiment "bustles forth with undiminished fierceness when its time came." They make a "barbaric cry of rage," urged on by the lieutenant. The Youth is deeply absorbed as a spectator in this "great drama" of war. He thinks that since the soldiers in his regiment have been called mud diggers, they are three times more bitter and will fight harder. Their anger shows in their faces and in their savagery. The Youth is mesmerized to watch the fighting from a distance; he decides not to move no matter what happens. He believes that his final revenge against the officer who called them "mule drivers" would be to die upon the field. He sees his sergeant shot through the cheeks and then go running toward the rear. He watches many of his comrades die, "grunting bundles of blue." Then he notices that the fire of the regiment begins to wane.


Notes

In this chapter, Henry views the fighting from a distance. He can look all about him and see what is going on. Just as his mental state has expanded, now his physical viewpoint is also broadened. He has positioned himself with the flag at the top of a hill, so his fellow soldiers will be spurred on by the sight of the colors. The battle rages all around him, but he shows no fear. He is determined to hold his position no matter what. He even thinks it would be appropriate revenge on the criticizing officer if he dies right on the spot.

Being so far removed from the bloodshed, the Youth is in the position of the generals who have been so unfeeling about the loss of lives. Henry, however, is very affected. He suffers with his comrades who are wounded and dying. He empathizes with his fellow soldiers who are exhausted from the fighting. Even though he sits apart during this particular battle, the Youth is no longer isolated and alone; he is one with the regiment.

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