In Red Badge of Courage, why does Henry remember the cows at home with "a halo of happiness" about their heads?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the first chapter of The Red Badge of Courage, after having enlisted in the army of the North, young Henry Fleming listens to the soldiers debate about the forthcoming battle. With feelings of panic and fear, confronted with "a thing of the moment," Henry worries that he will lose courage and run from battle. He finally concludes in Chapter II that 

the only way to prove himself was to go into the blaze, and then figuratively to watch his legs to discover their merits and faults.

For, Henry feels that no one seems to be wrestling with such "a terrific personal problem" and he feels as though he is a mental outcast. So troubled, Henry considers himself unsuited for war; he longs to be home again secure on the farm performing his tedious routine of caring for the cows, one that often caused him to curse them. 

But, from his present point of view, there was a halo of happiness about each of their heads, and he would have sacrificed all the brass buttons on the continent to have been enabled to return to them.

In comparison to the mental turmoil and physical danger that Henry experiences, his old life of living on the farm now appears to him as one free from conflict and emotional disquiet. 

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The Red Badge of Courage

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