The Red Badge of Courage


Chapter 7: How is the peace of the youth's surrounding shattered? He had seen death before. Why did this have such a dramatic effect on him?

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Henry’s embarrassed retreat into the forest is filled with conflicted emotion. In the forest, the sounds of the battle grow quiet. His "return to Nature" is somewhat akin to Thoreau's in Walden as he attempts to take lessons from nature in some way. Yet, he is not learning from nature as much as seeking justification for his actions. When he muses on the squirrel running from his thrown pinecone and how it somehow explains his running from danger, he is only explaining a situation that has already happened. The interpretation is not valid as he sees only what he wants to see. Instead, Nature is not the place of peace he believes it to be. His encounter with the corpse ultimately proves that Nature can be ugly and cruel and, moreover, indifferent to man. Nature's ambivalence is threatening to Henry. The uniform of the dead soldier, which used to be the blue of the Union army, has faded to green, the same color as the dragon from which he fled during battle. In this place of peace, Henry meets that same green animal of death.