Going After Cacciato

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Going After Cacciato Chapter 44 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The chapter begins with the soldiers and Sarkin walking through the streets of Paris, away from their hotel. Berlin asks the soldiers why they need to leave Paris. Doc explains that the hotel clerks have become suspicious about their claims to be American soldiers. One of the clerks called the American embassy, and determined that the soldiers were deserters, illegally stationed in France. Doc points to a park, and tells the soldiers that they should sleep outside for the night. Berlin is reluctant, but agrees.
Doc largely glosses over the details of why they must leave Paris. One could almost suspect him of making up a story, as he did with Captain Rhallon in Tehran, except that this story seems to benefit no one, least of all Doc. Once they’ve arrived in Paris, the soldiers’ goals become more muddled and ambiguous.
Themes
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
The next day, the soldiers wake up, and Berlin suggests that they “take a chance” on the apartment where he and Sarkin had been planning to live. Berlin brings the soldiers to his new home, and they eat dinner there. Over dinner, Eddie proposes that the soldiers travel to Sweden. Oscar dismisses this idea, and tells his soldiers the truth: everyone is in “big trouble.” Deserting is a serious offense, Oscar claims. Berlin suggests that the soldiers turn themselves in and explain their mission to hunt down Cacciato. Doc sighs and tells Berlin, “I pity you.” He explains that they would need evidence before they turned themselves in. Oscar proposes that the soldiers go on “one last hunt” and track down Cacciato. The soldiers reluctantly agree.
In this section, Oscar Johnson says the same things the characters (and we, the readers) have been thinking for some time. There’s simply no way that the soldiers can get away with deserting Vietnam and going to Paris—they’re going to have to capture Cacciato. Berlin demonstrates his innocence to the other, more experienced soldiers, proving that he still has a lot to learn. Doc, an older man, knows that the military expects results, and would only take the soldiers seriously if they get their job done.
Themes
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
The next morning, the soldiers begin their search. They take maps and divide Paris into sections. Corson refuses to search the city—in part because of his health, and in part because he doesn’t recognize the importance of the soldiers’ mission. Oscar Johnson takes charge of the hunt for Cacciato. Berlin spends long days patrolling the streets of Paris. At night, he goes back to his apartment with Sarkin, but they’re not happy together—Berlin can sense that he won’t be able to relax until he finds Cacciato. Sarkin continues to urge Berlin to run away from his soldiers, but Berlin refuses.
There’s a distance rapidly growing between Sarkin and Berlin—Berlin can’t focus on Sarkin anymore, since he knows he must either arrest Cacciato or go to jail himself. This is (it seems) an entirely imagined “romance,” and yet nothing about it has seemed particularly romantic, and it even starts to fall apart here, as Sarkin demands concrete action and Berlin hesitates.
Themes
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
The narrator writes, “The next morning he found Cacciato.” Berlin is walking through Les Halles (a neighborhood of Paris) when he sees Cacciato walking through the streets, looking healthy and happy. Berlin follows him at a safe distance, looking with amazement at the man he’s been trying to hunt down for months. He follows Cacciato through the streets, watching as Cacciato buys a loaf of bread and then sits on a bench, feeding pigeons. Cacciato then walks to a small hotel. Berlin follows him up the stairs of the building, to a small room. Berlin walks inside (the door is open), and sees Cacciato peeling carrots with a knife. Cacciato looks up, sees Berlin, and says, “Hi.”
As the novel draws to a close, O’Brien relies upon another sudden, unexpected twist—Cacciato shows up out of nowhere, just when Berlin needs to run into him. The last time Berlin tracked down Cacciato, Cacciato’s fellow monks attacked Berlin. Here, Cacciato seems both weaker and more menacing, and he even greets Berlin when Berlin opens his door (which is, surreally, open and unlocked). Cacciato’s behavior again seems unreal and dreamlike—apparently he’s been expecting Berlin.
Themes
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
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The chapter cuts ahead several hours. Berlin is explaining to Doc how he found Cacciato. He shows Doc a slip of paper on which he’s written the address of the hotel where Cacciato was staying. As Berlin shows the slip to the other soldiers, he finds himself becoming furious. He shouts that Cacciato left the war for no reason—he’s just “a baby.” Doc tells Berlin to calm down.
We don’t entirely understand why Berlin leaves Cacciato instead of arresting him then and there, and we certainly don’t understand why Cacciato doesn’t run when Berlin leaves him alone. It may be that Cacciato really is mentally challenged—a possibility that the book intentionally blurs. O’Brien is too subtle to suggest that Cacciato is insane and the soldiers are sane—instead, he implies that everyone who fights in Vietnam loses their mind in some way.
Themes
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
The narrator speaks as if he’s describing a scene from a play. He urges the reader to “imagine” a debate between Sarkin and Paul Berlin. The debate takes place at the Majestic Hotel. Sarkin stands on a high stage. Speaking clearly and eloquently, she argues that she and the soldiers have traveled for six months and about 8,600 miles to reach Paris—by coincidence, this is the same number of American lives that have been lost in Vietnam in the last six months. After enduring so much pain and suffering, she argues, Berlin should abandon his duty to find Cacciato, and give in to his “dream” of living in Paris with her.
This is another of O’Brien’s magical realist touches, and it’s amusing to hear Berlin and Sarkin—both of whom are quiet and reserved—speaking loudly and eloquently about their positions. Sarkin’s argument is well-phrased, but it hinges on a fundamental selfishness that parallels that of Oscar Johnson. Like Oscar, Sarkin cares only for literal, physical survival—she doesn’t think about factors like guilt, loyalty, or nostalgia, all of which impel Berlin to stay in squad three.
Themes
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
The narrator proceeds to urge the reader to “imagine” Paul Berlin’s response. Berlin walks onto the stage and delivers an eloquent, sophisticated speech of his own. He explains that he has obligations to his men and to himself: he has voted to continue the hunt for Cacciato, to fight in Vietnam, and to be a loyal soldier. These obligations aren’t just rules he must obey—they’re parts of his self. To abandon them now would be an act of betrayal—not only to the military, but to his own integrity. With this, Berlin falls silent. Neither he nor Sarkin says anything more—they haven’t convinced each other of anything. The narrator concludes, “imagine it.”
In the final chapters, the imaginary nature of the book becomes even more obvious, as here the narrator stresses that everything we’re reading in the chapter is a fabrication that we must “imagine.” And yet the point that the narrator arrives at is true to the characters’ motivations, and neither Berlin nor Sarkin succeeds in convincing the other of their position. Just as we’ve seen throughout the novel, Berlin and Sarkin simply don’t have any common ground: they’re two very different people who take advantage of each other at the right time.
Themes
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon