He suddenly lost concern for himself, and forgot to look at a menacing fate. He became not a man but a member. He felt that something of which he was a part—a regiment, an army, a cause, or a country—was in a crisis. He was welded into a common personality which was dominated by a single desire. For some moments he could not flee, no more than a little finger can commit a revolution from a hand.

This passage occurs in Chapter V as Henry engages in battle for the first time. He feels a brief but important respite from his nagging obsession with individual recognition. This powerful desire for personal glory and accompanying conviction that his life is more valuable than that of most other soldiers lead to some of Henry’s worst behavior, including his abandonment of the tattered soldier. Against these moments of hyperinflated egotism come flashes of realization that he is but one man among many. However, Henry’s convictions do not really change at these times: he does not particularly care whether he fights for “a regiment, an army, a cause, or a country.” Yet he does let slip the selfish preservation instinct that often blinds him to larger struggle. This momentary lapse of ego allows Henry to behave with honor. This later proves the surest and most responsible way of winning the glorious accolades that he so desperately desires.