Why is the youth compared metaphorically to a 'jaded horse' in the novel The Red Badge of Courage?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Author Stephen Crane gives the reader several examples of animal imagery in Chapter 6 of his novel, The Red Badge of Courage. Henry's regiment has just beaten back a Confederate attack and, watching the grey-clad troops retreat, he feels elation of the highest kind.

    So it was all over at last! The supreme trial had been passed. The red, formidable difficulties of war had been vanquished.
    He went into an ecstasy of self-satisfaction. He had the most delightful sensations of his life. Standing as if apart from himself, he viewd that last scene. He perceived that the man who had fought thus was magnificent.
    He felt that he was a fine fellow. He saw himself even with those ideals which he had considered as far beyond him. He smiled in deep gratification.

But Henry finds quickly that this is just an illusion. The Confederates regroup and charge again. Henry's "ecstasy" dissolves into a tired realization that the opponent must be superior to his own comrades. The Union troops are stunned, "stiffened... sullen... doleful."

    Into the youth's eyes there came a look that one can see in the orbs of a jaded horse. His neck was quivering with nervous weakness and the muscles of his arms felt numb and bloodless. His hands, too, seemed large and awkward as if he was wearing invisible mittens. And there was a great uncertainty about his knee joints.

The youth is terrified with fear, as most soldiers are when they come under fire for the first time. Crane uses the animal metaphor to describe the men as worn-out beasts awaiting slaughter by their superior human hosts. He sees himself about to be "gobbled" by the approaching "monster." A comrade runs like a "rabbit." Henry felt as if he were a "proverbial chicken." And then, "he ran like a blind man."

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