The Red Badge of Courage
The youth cringed as if discovered in a crime. By heavens, they had won after all! The
imbecile line had remained and become victors. He could hear cheering.
He lifted himself upon his toes and looked in the direction of the fight. A yellow fog lay
wallowing on the treetops. From beneath it came the clatter of musketry. Hoarse cries
told of an advance.
He turned away amazed and angry. He felt that he had been wronged.
He had fled, he told himself, because annihilation approached. He had done a good part
in saving himself, who was a little piece of the army. He had considered the time, he said,
to be one in which it was the duty of every little piece to rescue itself if possible. Later
the officers could fit the little pieces together again, and make a battle front. If none of
the little pieces were wise enough to save themselves from the flurry of death at such a
time, why, then, where would be the army? It was all plain that he had proceeded
according to very correct and commendable rules. His actions had been sagacious things.
They had been full of strategy. They were the work of a master's legs.
Thoughts of his comrades came to him. The brittle blue line had withstood the blows and
won. He grew bitter over it. It seemed that the blind ignorance and stupidity of those little
pieces had betrayed him. He had been overturned and crushed by their lack of sense in
holding the position, when intelligent deliberation would have convinced them that it was
impossible. He, the enlightened man who looks afar in the dark, had fled because of his
superior perceptions and knowledge. He felt a great anger against his comrades. He knew
it could be proved that they had been fools.
He wondered what they would remark when later he appeared in camp. His mind heard
howls of derision. Their density would not enable them to understand his sharper point of
He began to pity himself acutely. He was ill used. He was trodden beneath the feet of an
iron injustice. He had proceeded with wisdom and from the most righteous motives under
heaven's blue only to be frustrated by hateful circumstances.
A dull, animal-like rebellion against his fellows, war in the abstract, and fate grew within
him. He shambled along with bowed head, his brain in a tumult of agony and despair.
When he looked loweringly up, quivering at each sound, his eyes had the expression of
those of a criminal who thinks his guilt little and his punishment great, and knows that he
can find no words.
He went from the fields into a thick woods, as if resolved to bury himself. He wished to
get out of hearing of the crackling shots which were to him like voices.