The Red Badge of Courage By Stephen Crane Summary and Analysis Chapter 4

Summary

The entire brigade finally stops near a grove of trees, and the soldiers watch other regiments of other brigades do battle ahead of them. As they watch and wait, they share rumors regarding how other companies, regiments, battalions, individual soldiers, and officers have been doing in battles. There is disagreement as to how effective some have been and how strong the enemy is.

Summary

The entire brigade finally stops near a grove of trees, and the soldiers watch other regiments of other brigades do battle ahead of them. As they watch and wait, they share rumors regarding how other companies, regiments, battalions, individual soldiers, and officers have been doing in battles. There is disagreement as to how effective some have been and how strong the enemy is.

The lieutenant of Henry's company is wounded while waiting and is treated by the company's captain; at the same time, the front line troops seem to be in disarray. Officers of that brigade are both cursing and cajoling their men to keep fighting, but there are many in retreat. The troops in the reserve brigade, including those in Henry's regiment, watch the action with both awe and fear. As yet, however, the enemy causing all this chaos hasn't been seen.

Analysis

Crane continues to develop the theme of fear by allowing the soldiers to comment on rumors. For example, one soldier says, "They say Perry has been driven in with big loss" and "Hannises' battery is took." The reader also sees the battle through the eyes of a novice and shares the fears of the youth. The reader shares Henry's curiosity as he watches the frontline troops do battle.

Crane's technique of allowing the reader to watch the battle through the eyes of another in some ways limits the reader's perspective, but, in other ways, it increases the concern for personal safety. The theme of fear, in this case fear of the unknown, grows because the soldiers don't see, and have not, as yet, seen, the enemy — the force, the monster, causing all this chaos, and the reader, as a result, hasn't yet seen the monster, either. Indeed, the fear of the unknown is greater than the fear of facing the enemy directly. This fear of the unknown is a normal human behavior, one with which all people can identify, and, as a result, the reader empathizes with Henry.

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