"A Mystery of Heroism" is a short story by Stephen Crane that is set during the Civil War. While men are dying on the fields and fighting is happening all around them, the soldiers in A Company become focused on finding water to quench their growing thirst. It is ironic that throughout a story about war, the biggest battle becomes the fight to get a bucket of water. The story also has an ironic outcome when the quest proves to be fruitless.
Fred Collins is the soldier who braves his life to get his fellow soldiers some water to drink. He has to cross the battlefield while bombs explode around him and rifle shots fire past him. He fancies himself a hero since he recognizes that he has no fear, though he feels dazed. His journey to get the water is described just like any act of valor on the battlefield, as he overcomes great odds to fulfill his quest. However, when he finally comes back to his company, no one gets to enjoy the water that he has risked his life to get. In a turn of situational irony, someone knocks the bucket to the ground and all of the water spills out.
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