novel’s protagonist; a young soldier fighting for the Union army
during the American Civil War. Initially, Henry stands untested
in battle and questions his own courage. As the novel progresses,
he encounters hard truths about the experience of war, confronting
the universe’s indifference to his existence and the insignificance
of his own life. Often vain and holding extremely romantic notions
about himself, Henry grapples with these lessons as he first runs
from battle, then comes to thrive as a soldier in combat.
in-depth analysis of Henry Fleming.
friend; a tall soldier hurt during the regiment’s first battle.
Jim soon dies from his wounds, and represents, in the early part
of the novel, an important moral contrast to Henry.
in-depth analysis of Jim Conklin.
loud private; Henry’s friend in the regiment. Wilson and Henry grow
close as they share the harsh experiences of war and gain a reputation
as the regiment’s best fighters. Wilson proves to be a more sympathetic
version of Henry, though he does not seem to be troubled by Henry’s
tendency to endlessly scrutinize his own actions.
in-depth analysis of Wilson.
The tattered soldier
A twice-shot soldier whom Henry encounters in the
column of wounded men. With his endless speculation about Henry’s
supposed wound, the tattered soldier functions as a nagging, painful conscience
commander in battle, a youthful officer who swears profusely during
the fighting. As Henry gains recognition for doing brave deeds,
he and the lieutenant develop sympathy for each other, often feeling
that they must work together to motivate the rest of the men.
only in a brief flashback, Henry’s mother opposed his enlisting
in the army. Though her advice is only briefly summarized in Henry’s
flashback, it contains several difficult themes with which Henry must
grapple, including the insignificance of his life in the grand scheme
of the world.