Is it favorable to bury the commander in the short story "The Upturned Face" on the same day in spite of the battle?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Good question. The impromptu burial under fire in Stephen Crane's short story "The Upturned Face" was made during the most trying of circumstances by two officers who were personally affected and incapable of making a rational decision. In most cases of death, be it civilian or war-related, the body is not interred for at least several days, so an immediate burial is highly unusual. During the Civil War, casualties were generally handled after the conflict was decided; the wounded were often left to suffer until it was safe to move them if a cease-fire was not called. The dead were usually not moved until the action had ended; their bodies were often left for many days, especially in large-scale battles with high casualties (such as Gettysburg or Antietam). The decision to bury their commander where he fell also caused the wounding of one of the enlisted men who were digging his grave. The officer Lean no doubt chose to bury his fallen leader out of respect, but it was not a decision that most men would have made. It is also interesting that though Lean displayed his highest respect by burying his leader immediately, he and the other men were repulsed by the thought of actually touching the body, and viewing his upturned face caused a terror even worse than the deadly gunfire around them.

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The Upturned Face

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