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Free Study Guide-The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane-Online Summary
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CHAPTER 11

Summary

Without realizing it, Henry has wandered closer to the battlefront, and the roar of fighting grows louder. Henry is comforted when he sees his fellow soldiers in retreat, feeling he is not the only one that has fled the battlefield. He sits down and watches the "terror- stricken wagons" that move "like soft, ungainly animals." Then he notices another procession of soldiers moving into battle, and his depression returns. He views the advancing soldiers as chosen beings and is envious of and isolated from them. He thinks of himself being killed "on a high place before the eyes of all." He thinks about running to the front and imagines himself arriving just in time to kill the main force of the enemy. Then he realizes he does not have a rifle. He also fears that he will not be able to find his regiment.


The Youth, filled with doubts, starts walking and thinks "the marks of his flight" are written on him. He is miserable, tired, and hungry. Seeing himself as a "craven loon," Henry is consumed with self-hatred, and his body aches, especially his feet. He stays nearby the battle, but has no further thoughts about entering the action. He watches from a distance and hopes that his side is defeated. It would serve as a sort of vindication and a possible excuse for his desertion. He could say that he had run because of superior powers of perception. He again wishes he were dead, envies a corpse, and thinks about suicide. The Youth is certain that when he returns to his own camp, all the other soldiers will taunt him with reminders of his cowardice. The Youth believes he is "a condemned wretch."

Notes

This chapter is set inside Henry's mind and reveals the depression that the Youth is feeling. At one point, he hopes that his side will lose the battle so the other soldiers can share somewhat in his sense of shame. If they lose, he may be able to justify his own desertion as a form of foreknowledge on his part. Then Henry vacillates and hopes that his side is victorious, but he wants to die in order to escape the ridicule of his fellow soldiers. He even fantasizes about killing himself out of guilt. It is obvious that the Youth is totally torn by shame.

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