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Word Count: 439
When we play chess what is always the first piece we sacrifice to achieve victory The pawn of course The front line soldier that is always expendable I am not that great a chess player but in my somewhat lacking strategies I have even often used my pawn as bait to try and draw out my opponents more valuable pieces into a trap Nevermind what happens to that poor pawn In this Civil War novel Stephen Crane invites us into the mind of just such a pawn We see that he is not a mindless toy soldier but an enlightened young man full of optimism and bravado with family and friends back home and dreams of glory We also see that as he is exposed to the dreadful realities of combat he is all too human He experiences fear as he turns and runs for his life and senses a crushing shame at realizing his buddies stayed behind to fight The burden of his shame is so oppressive that he cant deal with it in mundane terms and mentally creates an alternate reality in which HE is the hero because he retreated while his friends are the failures for foolishly staying behind to die in vain But by a twist of fate his misfortunes are reversed and he discovers courage within himself that he feared didnt exist Crane shows us this by taking us into battle so that we witness how this mortal young man deals with the stress of combat and finds inner strength by focusing on his task and nothing else not even the possibility of his own death We even see the pawns hatred for the king as he inwardly fumes at the arrogant general who insultingly refers to him and his companions as mule drivers Next time you watch a Civil War film and you see soldiers topple over by the hundreds with each volley fired by the other side remember
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