What problem preoccupies Henry in the opening chapters of "Red Badge of Courage"? Why does he keep the problem to himself?Chapters 1-5

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Henry is afraid that he will not be brave under battle conditions.  He keeps his fears to himself because the other soldiers have told him tales of individuals acting with "unspeakable valor".  Although Henry is not sure if what they say is the truth, just in case they are right, he does not want them to think he is a coward. 

Henry has grown up with a romantic notion of warfare, and he does not know how he will respond when thrown into combat.  He hopes he will be courageous, but he really does not know how he will react, and until he finds out, he doesn't want anyone to think he is weak.  Henry is worried that "perhaps in a battle he might run...he (is) an unknown quantity...he must accumulate information of himself, and meanwhile he resolve(s) to remain close upon his guard lest those qualities of which he (knows) nothing should everlastingly disgrace him".  Henry does not yet understand that virtually all men are afraid, and that in the mechanism of warfare men most frequently act automatically, doing whatever those around them are doing.  Jim Conklin astutely predicts that "if a whole lot of boys started and run, why, I s'pose I'd start and run...but if everybody was a-standing and a-fighting, why, I'd stand and fight".  His honesty reassures Henry somewhat, for Henry had feared "that all of the untried men possessed great and correct confidence", and that he alone was tormented by doubts (Chapter I).

saragolden93 | Student

Henry has the need to feel accepted by his fellow men. He wants to know that what he's feeling is okay. He wants someone to assure him that what he's thinking is acceptable. He wants to figure out how to not be an "unknown quantity." He also wants to assure himself that he's not being a total coward. He's struggling within himself to decide what is right or wrong. Not only does he not want to look like a coward to everyone else, but he wants to prove it to himself too. He has the need to be accepted by everyone but he also has a sense of being accepted by himself.

victoriabroadwater | Student

Henry is preoccupied with thoughts of if he will run from battle. He keeps this problem to himself because he doesn't know how other people will feel about him if he tells them. He is afraid that they will think that he is cowardly and naive. He is afraid that they will no longer look at him as a brave hero.

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The Red Badge of Courage

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