The Red Badge of Courage

how are the officers generally portrayed

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In "The Red Badge of Courage" the officers are not arranged as though they are in a painting, gallant and commanding in "picturesque attitudes." Instead, Crane portrays the disorientation and chaos of the battlefield:

They [the officers] were bobbing to and fro offering directions and encouragements. The dimensions of their howls were extraordinary. They expended their lungs with prodigal wills. And often they nearly stood upon their heads in their anxiety to observe the enemy on the other side of the tumbling smoke.

Behind the battlelines, a lieutenant has a deserter by the collar and scolds him, forcing him back to the battle lines. The officer even has to load the man's rifle for him. The commanders treat the men with disdain, especially when they do not acieve impossible goals. The officers are part of the chaos trying to keep the men fighting together instead of running away.


The officers are not portrayed in a positive light. Insensitive, they give orders that can hardly be met under the conditions the man are fighting in. The officers push their men, and the lives of the men fighting are not seen as lives; they are pawns and they are expendable.

When sent to certain death, although some of the men made it, they were called the "mule drivers," something Henry found truly insulting. Some officers beat their men, and others didn't know what they were doing.