The Red Badge of Courage Cliff Notes (sort of)

Mar 14, 2002 (Updated Mar 25, 2002)
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Rated a Helpful Review

Pros:it was short, good book for a school report

Cons:hard to understand

The Bottom Line: Unless you are a civil war fan, I don't think you will like this book.

I didn't like reading this book too much but I had to write a report on it,so here you go,these are little notes and bits of my report:

1. Who is the main character?

You are introduced to Henry Fleming, who is a young man that joins the Union Army. His mother discourages him from enlisting, “Henry, don’t you be a fool,” p.5. He remembers how he insisted on enlisting despite of his mother’s wishes because he had read of “marches, sieges, conflicts, and he had longed to see it all,” p. 4.

2. What are the rumors?

A tall soldier had been down by the river and returned with a rumor. He heard that the company would be moving the following day. They discussed the fact of this being true, some do not believe him and some argue that this could be true. “It’s a lie! That’s all it is-a thunderin’ lie!” p. 2.

3. Why does Henry become eager to fight?

Henry becomes eager to fight so he can prove his courage. Henry is troubled about if he will be brave in battle? He thinks about the question constantly and finally concludes that he will not know the answer until he actually gets into battle. “His emotions made him feel strange in the presence of men who talked excitedly of a prospective battle as of a drama they were about to witness, with nothing but eagerness and curiosity apparent in their faces.” p. 14.

4. Why does Henry decide not to run away?

Henry had considered running away, but realizes that he can’t; he is surrounded on all sides by the regiment and feels as if he is in a moving box. He had forgotten that he had enlisted voluntarily. Henry felt that they were marching in a death march. “ He could hear the men whisper jerky sentences: ‘Say-what’s all this-about?’ ‘What the thunder-we skedaddlin’ this way fer?’” p. 24.

5. What frightens Henry and the men?

The brigade is watching another regiment retreat. The retreating men frighten Henry’s regiment and cause them to consider retreating also. Henry realizes that he has not yet seen the enemy, but once he does, he may run. “Out of this haze they could see running men. Some shouted information and gestured as they hurried. The men of the new regiment watched and listened eagerly, while their tongues ran on in gossip of the battle.” p. 32.

6. What happens to Henry during the battle?

Henry started shooting at the enemy and forgot that he is an individual. He feels that he is a part of the regiment. After a time, he feels the physical effects of fighting: burning sensations in his eyes and roaring in his ears. “The waves had receded, leaving bits of dark debris upon the ground.” p. 41. During the battle, he discovers that the kind of warfare he imagined does not exist. He confronts his cowardice and gains a new, realistic view of life.

7. Why does Henry think the men are abandoning him?

Henry sees the other men fleeing. He feels that he is being left behind to fight the enemy alone. He panics and runs from his post. He is so frightened he loses all sense of direction. As he runs he imagines that the enemy is chasing him. He then sees another brigade. He stopped and talks to the general and discovers that his comrades have held the line; there was no general retreat, after all. “As another officer sped his horse after the first messenger, the general beamed upon the earth like a sun. In his eyes was a desire to chant a paean. He kept repeating, ‘They’ve held ‘em, by heavens!’” p. 50.

8. Why does Henry cry out?

As Henry was walking through the woods he stumbled across a corpse. He cries out when he sees the corpse, then gazes at it intently before he gathers the strength to run away. As he runs, he is afraid that the dead man is stalking him. He then pauses to listen if the corpse is pursuing him. “The youth gave a shriek as he confronted the thing. He was for moments turned to stone before it. He remained staring into the liquid-looking eyes. The dead man and the living man exchanged a long look. Then the youth cautiously put one hand behind him and brought it against a tree.” p. 54.

9. What angers Henry?

After leaving the corpse Henry finds a group of wounded soldiers. One of these soldiers is Henry’s friend Jim Conklin. He realizes Conklin is seriously hurt. Henry offers him help but Conklin doesn’t want any. As they walk on Conklin reached a bush waiting for his death spasm, which happens very quickly. Conklins’ death angers Henry. “The youth turned, with sudden, livid rage, toward the battle-field. He shook his fist. He seemed about to deliver a philippic.” p. 66.

10. Will Henry join his regiment?

Henry debates within himself about whether or not he should try to find his regiment and fight again; however, he fears that his comrades will ask him questions and ridicule him about leaving. He is tired and hungry, and gives up on the idea of finding them. “He imagined the whole regiment saying: ‘Where’s Henry Fleming? He run, didn’t ‘e? Oh, my!’ He recalled various persons who would be quite sure to leave him no peace about it.” p. 77.

11. What did Henry think when he saw the soldiers retreating?

As the soldiers were retreating, Henry was horrorstricken. He tries to question them but they don’t pay any attention to him. He grabs the arm of a man and tries to get him to answer him, but the frightened man swings his rifle at him. “They were bursting from their coats and their equipments as from entanglements. They charged down upon him like terrified buffaloes.” p. 78.

12. What does it mean to get a “Red Badge of Courage”?

To Henry if you get a wound in battle that is a “Red Badge of Courage”. The badge symbolizes your courage. Henry gets his badge by getting hit on the head by another soldier. “He adroitly and fiercely swung his rifle. It crushed upon the youth’s head. The man ran on.” p. 80.

13. Who is Wilson?

Wilson was on guard that day when Henry went back to the regiment. Henry told him the wound on his head was from a bullet. Wilson believed Henry got separated during the first battle. Wilson and the corporal treat Henry’s wound, give him hot coffee, and put him to bed in Wilson’s blankets. “’Now, you jest sit here an’ don’t move, while t go rout out th’ relief. Then I’ll send Wilson t’ take keer ‘a yeh.’” p. 88.

14. What does Wilson want back from Henry?

A wile back Wilson had given Henry a packet, he wanted Henry to give it to his family should he be killed. It contains a letter that he wrote to them. Wilson wanted back the packet. Henry returned it without comment and felt that he was very generous. “’I guess yeh might as well hive me back them letters.’” p. 101.

15. What does Henry think when they stop in the woods?

Henry doesn’t like stopping in the woods at all. There is much grumbling. They must sty there until further orders. “’Good Gawd,’ the youth grumbled, ‘wer’re always being chased around like rats! It makes me sick. Nobody seems to know where we go or why we go.’” p. 106.

16. What is the news Henry and Wilson return with?

Henry and Wilson learned that their regiment is going to take the offensive and charge against the enemy and that not many of them can expect to survive. Most of the men believe them. Wilson and Henry accept the formidable dangers of the battle ahead. “The youth, turning, shot a quick, inquiring glance at his friend. The latter returned to him the same manner of look. They were the only ones who possessed an inner knowledge.” p. 118.

17. How does Henry get the American flag?

While the battle is going on the color sergeant is hit and falls. Henry catches the flag before it falls to the ground. Henry must yank the flagpole from the dying color sergeant. “He made a spring and a clutch at the pole. At the same instant his friend grabbed it from the other side.” p. 124.

18 What does the regiment do when they realize the enemy has gathered its forces?

There was so much smoke that it is impossible to see anything. Men run around trying to find an escape. “With serene regularity, as if controlled by a schedule, bullets buffed into men.” p. 130. Henry walked into the middle of the mob and stood there holding the flag. The enemy is very close when the regiment holds the line and held the enemy.

19. Why does Henry agree to charge the enemy?

Henry agrees to charge the enemy because he knows if they stay they will be killed and it will please to many people to retreat. They must move forward and dislodge the enemy from the fence. Henry expects that his companions will be reluctant to try, but to his surprise, he sees that they agree to the charge. When the command is given, the soldiers rush forward with eager cries. “It was a blind and despairing rush by the collection of men in dusty and tattered blue over a green sward and under a sapphire sky, toward a fence, dimly outlined in smoke, from behind which spluttered the fierce rifles of enemies.” p. 143

20. Why is Henry happy to be leaving the battlefield?

Henry feels a great change in his mind as he forgot his “battle mind” and resumed with his civilian way of thinking. He realized he is leaving the battlefield and that he is leaving alive. He is very happy about this. “But the youth, regarding his procession of memory, felt gleeful and unregretting, for in it his public deeds were paraded in great and shining prominence.” p. 151.


A. This novel is narrated in third-person limited. This means that the novel is told by a narrator who is not involved in the story. “The lieutenant sprang forward bawling.” p. 47. I think the author chose to write the novel in this way to give you a better understanding of the characters.
The narrator’s attitude toward the situation of the novel is that Henry will have to make a decision of staying in the battle or fleeing. “Others began to scamper away through the smoke. The youth turned his head, shaken from his trance by this movement as if the regiment was leaving him behind. He saw the fleeting forms. “p .46.
The attitude of the narrator toward the subject, which is for Henry to prove himself, is one of mind. This is expressed through the main character, Henry, as he is trying to prove to himself that he is courageous. “The youth had been taught that a man became another thing in a battle. He saw his salvation in such a change. Hence this waiting was an ordeal to him.” p. 28.
Finally, the attitude of the narrator toward the people involved is shown through appearance. Every character is described by the way the youth sees them. He refers to some of them like: the tall soldier, the loud soldier, and the tattered soldier. In the following quote there is one example. “He began to complain to the tall soldier.” p. 28.

B. The conflicts in this novel involve man vs. self and man vs. man. The first conflict is between Henry and himself. He becomes eager to fight. He wants to prove that he is courageous and not a coward. “His emotions made him feel strange in the presence of men who talked excitedly of a prospective battle as of a drama they were about to witness, with nothing but eagerness and curiosity apparent in their faces.” p. 14. This conflict is resolved when Henry decided to stay and face the enemy.
The second conflict of man vs. man is when Henry fights the enemy. “Directly the youth could see the skirmishers running. They were pursued by the sound of musketry fire. After a time the hot, dangerous flashes of he rifles were visible. Smoke clouds went slowly and insolently across the fields like observant phantoms. The din became crescendo, like the roar of an oncoming train.” p. 30. This conflict is resolved when the brigade holds the line and chases the enemy out. They then celebrate. “After the men had celebrated sufficiently they settled down behind the old rail fence, on the opposite side to the one from which their foes had been driven.” p. 148.

III. Character

A. The underlying motivation of Henry is to prove to himself that he is not a coward. “The youth had been taught that a man became another thing in battle.” p. 28. He is eager to fight because he wants to prove he is courageous.

B. The change that Henry undergoes is a great one. He goes from being a coward and running to being a hero and facing the enemy. “It would be death to stay in the present place, and with all circumstances to go backward would exalt too many others. Their hope was to push the galling foes away from the fence.” p. 143.

C. The means by which Henry is introduce to the reader are as follows: Explicit description, attitudes of others toward him, his speech, how he acts, and his actions toward others. At the beginning of the novel, it explains that Henry is a fresh recruit into the army. He wonders how he will react in battle; will he run or will he fight. “From his home his youthful eyes had looked upon the war in his own country with distrust. It must be some sort of play affair.” p. 4. As the novel progresses Henry grows stronger and faces the enemy.

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