In The Red Badge of Courage, why did the corporal begin to swear before the assemblage?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The corporal begins to swear before the assemblage during an argument among the men as to whether they will be moving on to battle soon or not.  The soldiers, who are anxious to see action, have been sitting around waiting for an interminable time, when one of the men starts the debate by announcing he has heard they will receive orders to move tomorrow.  The corporal says that although "during the early spring he had refrained from adding extensively to the comfort of his environment because he had felt that the army might start on the march at any moment, of late...he had been impressed that they were in a sort of eternal camp", and had "just put a costly board floor" in his hut (Part 1).  His expletive-laced outburst might be taken in one of two ways.  Either he believes the men are wrong, and is voicing his frustration at hearing them get  excited about yet another rumor, or he is expressing aggravation that they might actually move just when he has finally concluded that they never will, and has invested in a proper floor for his living quarters.  In thinking about the theme of the story at this point, it would appear the former interpretation is more likely.

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The Red Badge of Courage

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