He had grown so used to seeing death . . . that it seemed no longer dark and mysterious. He feared his heart had been touched by the fire so often he might never make a civilian again.

These lines come in the middle of the novel, from the chapter “to live like a gamecock,” in which Inman barely survives execution at the hands of Confederate soldiers. For Inman and other soldiers in the war, death has been demystified because of the war experience, both on the battlefield and during arduous journeys home. As such, it stands as a stark indicator of the emptiness of human existence—suggesting that life is simply a preamble to death—and is a cause for great despair. This quotation indicates the sheer volume of soldiers killed in the conflict and how they grow to form a veritable army of dead men in Inman’s mind. This passage follows Inman’s resurrection after being shot by the Home Guard, a time when he is most affected by war’s utter wastefulness. Inman’s yearning to return home and resume a normal existence is intensified by his estrangement from the idea of civilian life.