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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What is the one important decision Henry makes for himself? Is it when he runs or when he chooses to join the war?

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Above all else, Henry determines to make good the second chance he receives after "skedaddling" from the fight following the renewed Confederate charge. After running away when the Union lines appeared to break, Henry's guilt overwhelms him. When he finally makes his way back to his own lines only to find that most of his comrades had held their ground, his guilt intensifies. He imagines the insults that he would receive for deserting under fire and the further shame that he would endure. But no one questions him about running; they assume that his wound has been received in action, and the men in his regiment accept his story about being separated and fighting with another unit. Henry's secret is safe, and he would be sure to keep it that way: He promises to prove himself during the next action.

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