The Red Badge of Courage

How did the youth use Wilson's letters.

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In Wilson’s letters, Henry sees weakness rather than an expression of humanity. When he realizes that he still has the letters to Wilson’s family handed to him before the battle, Henry does not think to spare his friend humiliation and give them back. Instead, he considers them a token of protection against his own shame. Yes, Henry ran, but he did so without witness (“in the dark”), so he can still proclaim to be a man. Wilson, on the other hand, made a show of his fear. Henry feels a budding superiority over the man who has not only fought valiantly in the battle, but who showed him so much kindness. The zenith of his ridiculous, hubristic thoughts come when he deigns to hold the others who fled in contempt because they ran with “wildness.” He, on the other hand, fled "with discretion and dignity." We know from the earlier chapter that this is not the case. He fled because others were fleeing. He fled because he too was afraid. And, in reality, he fled wildly. The ironic detachment between Henry and the narrator also signal Henry’s lack of self-awareness and childishness.