The Red Badge of Courage

Religious Imagery

In chapter seven of The Red Badge of Courage, th author compares the grove of trees where Henry finds the dead union soldier toa chapel. The description of the site is full of religious imagery. What is the significance of these analogies?

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Henry goes into a small clearing with light streaming down from above, as in a church. What he sees horrifies him. A corpse sits against a tree, his blue uniform faded to green. His eyes are dull and like those of a dead fish. His mouth hangs open and small ants run across his face. Henry shrieks but stands still, looking at it for a long time. Then, the youth puts one hand behind him and backs away slowly. As he goes, he still faces the corpse, afraid that if he turns on it, it will chase him stealthily. As he goes through the branches, he gets small suggestions to touch the corpse. The thought makes him shudder. At last he turns around and runs, thinking of the small ants. After a bit, he pauses, imagining a voice coming from the dead man's throat yelling at him. Silence dominates the small chapel of the forest. That thin line between life and death comes into sharper focus. There is a pastoral setting in the frrest with analogies to church and God. The corpses lie at rest: it is a rest not meant for the living. One might question if God provides soice or indifference to the carnage that has unfolded.