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Free Study Guide-The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane-Online Summary
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CHAPTER 4

Summary

The brigade is halted, and the Youth hears gossip about their battle plans. He also hears about the soldier who earlier had his hand trampled. The doctor wanted to amputate his fingers, but the soldier refused. As they wait and talk, bullets fly overhead, and the lieutenant is shot in the hand.

Suddenly, Henry hears loud noises in front of him and sees men running, a whole command fleeing with the flag sunk down. They appear like a mad mob with an "appalling imprint" on their faces. The veterans in the regiment jeer at the fleeing soldiers. A mounted officer is angry and shouting, acting like a spoiled child. The officers who try to stop the soldiers do not succeed. The Youth realizes he has not yet seen the "composite monster" of battle that has caused the soldiers to run. He imagines that when he gets a good look, he may run faster than the rest.


Notes

This very brief chapter details the chaos of the war. The Youth's regiment is marching along the road, where it has been marching for weeks. Once more, they are told to halt. Suddenly they hear the noise of battle and see the frightened faces of fleeing soldiers. The sights and sounds of war make the Youth even more afraid. The officers, who are supposed to lead them, act like children.

It is significant to notice that before Henry actually sees any fighting, he sees the fear that fighting produces and the shame that is attached to that fear. It is a foreshadowing of what he is soon to feel himself.

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