Illustration of Henry Fleming in a soldier's uniform in front of a confederate flag and an American flag

The Red Badge of Courage

by Stephen Crane
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Compare and contrast the sense of battle found in Chapters 16 and 19 of The Red Badge of Courage. 

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The sense of battle found in Chapters 16 and 19 are similar in that the soldiers are detached from what is going on around them.  There is an atmosphere of surrealism; the scene is called "a strange, battleful existence (16), and the smoke lies "in confusing clouds that (make) it proceed with intelligence" (19).  In both battles, Henry acts without thinking.  His movements are automatic; there is "a lack of a certain feeling of responsibility for being there" (19).  Henry has no control over anything, and his emotions rise and fall precipitously and uncomprehendingly; one minute he is bragging arrogantly only to be reduced the next moment to "a modest person" by the chance comment of someone else (16), and in the midst of chaos he is suddenly and inexplicably possessed by "a despairing fondness for (the) flag" (19).

The battle scenes, however, are very different in that in the first, the regiment is "unmolested as yet".  The tone of that battle is almost casual; Henry's friend actually falls into "a deep sleep" while they wait for the opposition to reach them, and Henry himself finds himself joking about their situation.  The atmosphere among the men is so nonchalant that the lieutenant reprimands them with the admonition, "Less talkin' an' more fightin'" (16).  In the second battle scene, the men have tasted the horror of battle and a tone is one of semi-organized chaos.  Henry finds himself running like "an insane soldier", while men around him fall "in grotesque agonies" (19).

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