The Red Badge of Courage By Stephen Crane Summary and Analysis Chapter 10

Summary

The tattered soldier's reaction to Jim's death is one of awe. He continues to talk non-stop to Henry and to call Jim a real "jim-dandy." Henry pays little attention to the tattered soldier's ramblings until the soldier, trying to be sympathetic to Henry's supposed wound, says, "Where is your'n located?" Henry tells him angrily, "Oh, don't bother me." Indeed, Henry walks away from the tattered soldier, leaving him in the field, even as the tattered soldier shows signs of becoming very disoriented from the effects of his wounds. Henry quickly forgets the tattered soldier and again begins to focus on his own condition, wishing he were dead, noting that the simple question asked by the tattered soldier is representative of a society that will not allow him to "keep his crime concealed in his bosom."

Analysis

In a key passage in this chapter, Crane tells the reader that Henry "could hear the tattered man bleating plaintively." Henry's reaction to the tattered man's whining is to abandon the disoriented soldier. Ironically, Henry doesn't recognize that he has been the one doing the greatest bleating (if only internally). When he sees that same behavior in another person, he treats that behavior with disdain — unable or unwilling to show compassion or to see that same behavior in himself. Henry has sunk into a state of total self-absorption, the antithesis of the compassion required to be the courageous and honorable man he thinks he wants to be.

After abandoning the tattered soldier in the field, Henry realizes that he is also alone and abandoned. When Henry begins to wish for death, the reader can see that the tattered man's question had pierced his soul. As Crane tells the reader, the question "asserted [represented] a society that probes helplessly at secrets until all is apparent. His late companion's chance persistency made him feel that he could not keep his crime concealed in his bosom." Henry remains selfish, introspective, fearful, and doubtful.

The sequence of emotions outlined in this chapter allows Crane to continue to reinforce both the instability of Henry's mental condition and the themes of duty (specifically, the failure to do one's duty) and doubt — both augmented by Henry's feelings of guilt resulting from his fleeing.

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