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In The Red Badge of Courage, what change does Henry notice in his friend Wilson?

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lawren-jayne | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 3, 2010 at 9:00 AM via web

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In The Red Badge of Courage, what change does Henry notice in his friend Wilson?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 9, 2011 at 4:26 AM (Answer #1)

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Like most of the soldiers described in The Red Badge of Courage, Henry's friend, Wilson, also underwent many changes during the novel. Also referred to as the Loud Soldier, Wilson began his stint as a short-tempered braggart who promised to do big things once he finally got into action. Henry envied his friend's seeming confidence right up until their first action. After Henry "skedaddled" during the Confederate attack, his guilt bothered him mightily, and he must have wished for Wilson's battle demeanor. But Wilson had changed, too. Wilson eventually confides to Henry that he, too, had run when the action got too hot; an officer caught up with him and forced him to stand and fight, but Wilson's first taste of battle had altered him. His overconfidence had turned to realistic doubt in his abilities. As Henry boasted about what he would do when the next attack came, it was Wilson who questioned him about the outcome. When Henry pursued the retreating Confederates long after they had retreated, it was Wilson who questioned his actions in amazement. They had reversed roles at least momentarily: Wilson had become the quiet, reserved soldier as Henry ridded his guilty conscience with a burst of foolhardy heroism. In the end, both of the men came to realize the true horror of war: That any man could become the target of a little red badge at any time.

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