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What does a man think and feel when he must kill or be killed?When in the chaos of battle will fear paralyze him or, worse, cause him to turn coward and run?To this point, Henry has observed battles, but his regiment has not yet been in a battle.
Henry stands his ground and fires, forgetting his fears and doubts about his performance.
The reader wonders if Henry has crossed the line from youth to man as a result of his first battle.
Prior to meeting the cheery soldier, Henry received a head injury inflicted on him by another fleeing soldier, and he left another comrade, a wounded, tattered soldier, wandering in a field because this soldier asked too many questions about him — questions which he refused to answer at that time.
Henry's behavior continues to be boyish and immature.
He determines that he cannot face the ridicule which he might receive if he told the truth, so he does not tell what really happened.
(He tells two untruths instead.) It is not until the head wound heals, and he finds Wilson's letters, that he can begin to rebuild his confidence.The fact that Henry, ironically, sustained a head wound from another soldier also running from the front line is known only to Henry and to the reader.In this way Crane brings the reader into Henry's mind and allows the reader to speculate regarding just how Henry will explain what has happened to him.In Chapter 2, Henry begins to interact with the other soldiers in the regiment.Crane shows Henry listening to his comrades discussing the enemy and the battles to come.Chapter 5 brings the first real shift in Henry's character.It is the first day of the first battle for Henry and his regiment.The short chapters allow the reader to enter Henry's mind and become part of Henry's mental debate. As he waits for war, he daydreams about his home, his farm, and the conversation he had had with his mother.By staging the first chapter of the book almost exclusively in Henry's thoughts, Crane sets the stage for Henry's mental transition throughout the book.Henry, the inexperienced youth, can't judge how much truth is in the veterans' tales.This lack of knowledge contributes to his fear, which he internalizes completely, leaving him isolated from the other men.