Colonel Shaw acts very cowardly at the beginning of Glory, but at the end he acts courageously. How does this character transformation take place?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm not sure that I would call any of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw's actions cowardly in the film Glory. Before taking over the all-black 54th Massachusetts, he suffers a wound in battle (altough it may appear that he feigned death to avoid further conflict in the action). His inexperience as a regimental commander may also show an initial weakness, but he redeems himself thoroughly throughout the movie. He learns to admire the determination and work ethic of his recruits, and he earns their admiration when he joins them in their boycott when they are offered reduced pay. His abolitionist background combined with an honorable duty to lead by example forces him to volunteer his regiment on the near-suicidal frontal assault on the Confederate's virtually impenetrable Fort Wagner. He probably realizes that the attack has little chance of success, but his desire to show the world that his black troops are equal to the other Union and Confederate soldiers prompts him to lead the attack from the front on foot. He is shot down outside the fort and is later buried in a mass grave with his soldiers. Both Shaw and the Confederates who deliberately interred him there probably considered it a proper final resting place, though for opposite reasons.