The Red Badge of Courage

How does Henry achieve a balance between his valiant public deeds and his shameful private deeds? ( Chapter 24 )

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In Chapter Twenty-four, Henry reflects on his experiences. He escaped the place of red blood and black passion. Eventually, he thinks with satisfaction and cohesion about his past actions. He can look at them like a spectator and criticize with some correctness. Now, unlike before, he is proud and confident. He feels he is good.

Then, a few ghosts from his flight from the first battle dance before him. He blushes slightly, remembering. Another phantom, this one of reproach, come to him as he remembers the tattered soldier, who was so concerned for Henry's fabricated wound and Jim Conklin's sufferings. He begins to sweat and then lets out a cry. Wilson, his friend, turns to him and asks what is wrong. The youth's reply is an outburst of violent oaths.

Whichever way his thoughts turn, they are confronted now by his memory of desertion. He looks at his companions, wondering if they can read his thoughts. Of course, they are too engrossed in discussions of the battle. For a time, Henry does not feel like he can join in. His thoughts are occupied with the tattered soldier.

Yet, he eventually puts his sin at a distance. He now looks at his past bombasts and opinions of battle and is happy that he despises them. With this comes a sort of assurance. He feels a quiet manhood, a sturdy blood. He knows that he will no longer doubt his inner guides. "He had been to touch the great death, and found that, after all, it was but the great death. He was a man."