Going After Cacciato

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Oscar Johnson Character Analysis

A sergeant in Paul Berlin’s battalion, Oscar Johnson is a tough, experienced soldier who’s enormously respected by his peers for having survived nine previous tours in Vietnam. During the course of the novel, Johnson is often the leader of the other soldiers, particularly after Lieutenant Corson’s health takes a turn for the worse. Johnson is always one of the strongest advocates for continuing the mission to Paris, and at the end of the book, when Corson abandons his troops, Johnson becomes their commanding officer. Johnson is shown to despise Berlin, whom he regards as “soft” and childish. Johnson makes a series of difficult decisions in the novel, and is the first to propose that the soldiers murder Lieutenant Sidney Martin. Johnson always stresses the important of survival at all costs—he is, in short, a perfect, remorseless soldier.

Oscar Johnson Quotes in Going After Cacciato

The Going After Cacciato quotes below are all either spoken by Oscar Johnson or refer to Oscar Johnson . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Broadway Books edition of Going After Cacciato published in 1999.
Chapter 10 Quotes

Then they were falling. Paul Berlin felt it in his stomach. A tumbling sensation. There was time to snatch for Sarkin Aung Wan's hand, squeeze tight, and then they were falling. The road was gone and they were simply falling, all of them, Oscar and Eddie and Doc, the old lieutenant, the buffalo and the cart and the old women, everything, tumbling down a hole in the road to Paris.

Related Characters: Paul Berlin , Lieutenant Corson , Sarkin Aung Wan , Oscar Johnson , Eddie Lazzutti
Related Symbols: Paris, Tunnels
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

Paul Berlin and his fellow soldiers have stumbled upon a secret Vietcong lair, which may or may not be booby-trapped. Berlin and his fellow soldiers fall underneath the ground, though O'Brien never describes exactly how. It's left up to us to decide whether the episode is real or imagined: certainly, American soldiers encountered more surreal spectacles during their service in the war (and the Vietcong did have a complex system of tunnels during the war), and yet O'Brien depicts the soldiers' fall underground in fantastical terms that echo Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, making us wonder if the entire scene is a dream or hallucination of some kind.

The soldiers' fall is deliberately paralleled with Cacciato's flight: Cacciato is slowly freeing himself from his duty to the military, while his fellow soldiers find themselves mired in the horrors of war. Once again, the soldiers associate Paris with peace, escape, and tranquility--and the hole into which they have fallen delays their journey to Paris. (Of course, it's worth noting that the peace and prosperity of Paris comes in part from the exploitation of poorer countries and its former colonies like Vietnam--surely a deliberate choice of symbol on O'Brien's part.)

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Going After Cacciato quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Chapter 24 Quotes

"Crazy," Oscar said. He kept wagging his head. "Over an' out."
It made Paul Berlin feel good. Like buddies. Genuine war buddies, he felt close to all of them. When they laughed, he laughed.

Related Characters: Oscar Johnson (speaker), Paul Berlin
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, O'Brien shows how a young, inexperienced soldier bonds with his fellow troops. Paul Berlin and Oscar (a fellow soldier) have gone to take phone calls from their families back in the U.S. Berlin waits for Oscar, and when Oscar comes out of the phone room, he's looking very serious. Berlin then feels strangely close to Oscar--tragedy brings them together in sympathy and mutual respect.

O'Brien suggests that tragedy and trauma bring soldiers together, more than anything else. Paul and his fellow troops witness unspeakable tragedies. They're bound together for life by their experiences--they have nobody else to talk to about the things they've seen and done. Berlin has yet to fight in battle at this point, but he's already learning about how military bonding works--sadness is the "glue" that holds everyone together.

Chapter 33 Quotes

There was great quiet. A very noisy quiet, Paul Berlin thought. He felt Oscar staring at him from across the room—a long, hard stare—as if to accuse. As if to say, Your fuckin dream, man. Now do something.
After a moment Doc Peret sighed. "Well," he said, "I guess it's time for some diplomatic pressure. By Uncle Sam, I mean. Time for Sammy to step in on our behalf."
The captain shook his head. "Sadly," he said, "that will not be possible. Certainly not productive. As I say, your government does not know you. Or chooses not to. In either case, I fear the outcome is the same."

Related Characters: Doc Peret (speaker), Captain Fahyi Rhallon (speaker), Paul Berlin , Oscar Johnson
Page Number: 228-229
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Captain Rhallon--newly suspicious of Berlin and his fellow troops traveling through Iran--has the troops arrested and sentenced to be executed. Rhallon is as calm as ever, but this time there's no ambiguity in the air of menace he gives off: he's going to let his new "friends" be killed. And this time, Doc's bluffs of knowledge and control don't work--Rhallon knows full-well that Doc is lying about traveling through the country via the Geneva Codes.

Even at this dark moment in the text, there's a strong element of fantasy. Oscar stares as Paul Berlin as if to reference Paul's "dream"--a clear reminder of the possibly fictional nature of the entire story (it's later suggested that Paul is dreaming his mission as he sits on the beach). Rhallon's words, for all their menace, have some truth in them: the soldiers' government doesn't care about them. In fact, the U.S. government sent its soldiers into Vietnam to die--the government wanted its men to further its own causes in Vietnam, not escape to Paris.

Chapter 34 Quotes

Oscar lifted the grenade from his belt. It was the new kind, shaped like a baseball, seamless, easy to handle and easy to throw. He held it as if judging its weight. "See my point? It's preservation. That's all it is—it's selffuckin-preservation."

Related Characters: Oscar Johnson (speaker)
Page Number: 234
Explanation and Analysis:

Sidney Martin, the commander of Paul Berlin and the other troops, has ordered his troops to "clear" a bunker--a highly dangerous activity that's already resulted in two lives lost. One by one, the soldiers refuse to put their own lives in danger. Martin writes down everyone's name, promising to report them for insubordination, and then he goes into the hole himself. While he's down there, Oscar and his peers seem to be seriously considering murdering Martin.

On the surface, Oscar's inclination to kill a fellow soldier seems barbaric, and yet he has a legitimate point--that doing so would protect his own life, and the lives of his fellow soldiers. Being a "good" soldier in Vietnam means voluntarily endangering one's own life. We already knew that there's a big difference between pursuing one's own peace and happiness and following orders (going after Cacciato is insubordinate, after all), and yet it's not until this scene that we see the stark conflict between survival and duty that Paul and his fellow troops must face.

Chapter 40 Quotes

Shrugging, glancing again into the mirror, the girl opened the door and stepped out. She watched while Oscar dumped out her suitcase and sleeping bag. She never stopped smiling.
Eddie drove, Oscar rode shotgun.
"You know," Doc said wistfully, "sometimes I do feel a little guilt."

Related Characters: Doc Peret (speaker), Oscar Johnson , Eddie Lazzutti
Page Number: 276
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, a young "hippie" woman helps the soldiers travel across the country into Paris. In spite of the woman's kindness, the troops treat her cruelly, taking her car and throwing her things on the ground without any care. Strangely, the woman continues to smile. Perhaps O'Brien intends this character to represent the innocence and foolishness of the youth movement's response to Vietnam. In the 60s and 70s, there were millions of young men and women who opposed the war in Vietnam. Often, these people treated American soldiers as mere pawns (just like the government they were opposing did)--they were more interested in arguing against the sociopolitical reasons for the war itself than they were in empathizing with individual soldiers. By the same token, the woman who drives the troops seems to respect the "idea" of fighting in the war, but also seems to make no effort to understand Paul and his friends individually.

Doc's claim that he feels guilty is meant be taken ironically--he seems to be referring to the young woman whose car he's just taken, when in fact he should be feeling guilty about the crimes he's committed in Vietnam--a morally complex issue that the young woman herself clearly doesn't understand.

Get the entire Going After Cacciato LitChart as a printable PDF.
Going after cacciato.pdf.medium

Oscar Johnson Character Timeline in Going After Cacciato

The timeline below shows where the character Oscar Johnson appears in Going After Cacciato. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...sickly. Some of the soldiers compare the rain to that of their homes. One soldier, Oscar Johnson, says the rain reminds him of Detroit, and notes that rain provides the best... (full context)
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...without leave”). Corson asks Berlin about Cacciato’s squad—which consists of Berlin, Doc, Eddie Lazzutti, Stink, Oscar, and Harold Murphy. Corson tells Berlin that this squad, squad three, is going after Cacciato. (full context)
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...and his soldiers proceed. It begins to rain, very hard. Despite the sound of thunder, Oscar shouts to Cacciato. Cacciato turns, and seems to shout something back, but nobody can hear... (full context)
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
A few hours later, Oscar Johnson is returning to the squad, carrying a white flag. Johnson has gone to meet... (full context)
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...distance—Cacciato is cooking himself breakfast. Lieutenant Corson wakes up and announces, “let’s do it.” Eddie, Oscar, and Harold Murphy proceed towards Cacciato, while Corson and the other soldiers stay behind, “to... (full context)
Chapter 2
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
...it’s a little before midnight. Nearby, he sees other soldiers, such as Doc, Eddie, and Oscar, sleeping peacefully. (full context)
Chapter 3
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...As the soldiers continue, Paul Berlin becomes extremely tired. He falls back to walk alongside Oscar Johnson, his fellow soldier. Johnson mutters that there’s no way Cacciato walked the way they’re... (full context)
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
...argues that they should turn back, rather than risk their lives hunting down one deserter. Oscar Johnson disagrees—he argues that the soldiers have responsibilities to their lieutenant, and shouldn’t ignore these... (full context)
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...morning, the soldiers discover that Harold Murphy has left, and left behind his big rifle. Oscar Johnson picks up the rifle, and the soldiers continue west into Laos without Murphy. (full context)
Chapter 4
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...1968, he meets the soldiers of his platoon, which are led by the buck sergeant, Oscar Johnson. Doc Peret is the medic. The platoon leader is Lieutenant Sidney Martin. While he... (full context)
Chapter 11
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...near a village called Hoi An. Cacciato—still a soldier at this time—works with Harold Murphy, Oscar, and Vaught to prepare marching on. (full context)
Chapter 13
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
Suddenly, Berlin hears a noise and turns—he finds himself crouching on the ground, looking at Oscar Johnson, who is carrying a lighted match. Berlin finds that he can’t stop giggling—he’s nearly... (full context)
Chapter 14
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
...while trying to secure the area. Sidney Martin calmly says, “Somebody’s got to go down.” Oscar, furious with Martin, says that there’s no point in sending a single soldier into the... (full context)
Chapter 16
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...Cacciato enjoys playing basketball, and seems strangely unconcerned by the uncertainty of the soldiers’ situation. Oscar Johnson mutters that Cacciato is “Trouble with a capital T.” (full context)
Chapter 17
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...streets of Mandalay. Paul Berlin walks through Mandalay with his fellow soldiers and mutters, “civilization.” Oscar Johnson notes that Mandalay reminds him of Detroit. (full context)
Chapter 18
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...dinner. Eddie raises an important question: what are the soldiers supposed to be searching for? Oscar Johnson replies that the soldiers will have to think like Cacciato, so they’ll have to... (full context)
Chapter 21
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
...mixture of fear and hatred. After searching and finding nothing, Berlin goes to meet with Oscar and Eddie. Neither has found Cacciato, but they come across Cacciato’s bag, which is now... (full context)
Chapter 22
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
The narrator proceeds to describe the other soldiers. Oscar Johnson is dark-skinned, and has an “aristocratic” bearing. He always claims that he’s from Detroit,... (full context)
Chapter 24
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
On the soldiers’ last day of stand-down, Eddie, Doc, Paul Berlin, and Oscar walk to the 82nd Commo Detachment, where the soldiers keep the army’s radio communication system.... (full context)
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 soldier to place a call is Doc, followed by Oscar. They both walk out of the soundproof rooms looking choked up, as if their calls... (full context)
Chapter 26
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...want to wait in Delhi with their lieutenant, and others want to proceed to Kabul. Oscar—the ranking officer in Corson’s absence—grins and tells Doc that Corson is one of the “walkin’... (full context)
Chapter 29
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...of Tehran. There, they celebrate Christmas—making decorations, brewing eggnog, and even smoking the last of Oscar’s marijuana. Lieutenant Corson gets very sick again, but it’s not clear exactly why. Doc tries... (full context)
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
The soldiers blame their arrest, the narrator explains, on each other: Eddie blames Stink, Oscar blames Eddie, etc. Eddie makes the mistake of asking a local man if he knows... (full context)
Chapter 33
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...time, Berlin is handcuffed and brought into a large room, along with Stink, Eddie, Doc, Oscar, and Corson. Sarkin is thrown into this room as well. She kisses Berlin’s throat. Berlin... (full context)
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
Inside his new prison room, Berlin asks Oscar why they were arrested. Before Oscar can answer, Captain Rhallon walks through the door. He... (full context)
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
Shortly after Rhallon’s departure, another officer enters the soldiers’ cell. He points at Oscar Johnson and orders him to remove his sunglasses and step on them. Oscar refuses, and... (full context)
Chapter 34
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...beginning of Berlin’s military service, shortly after the deaths of Frenchie Tucker and Bernie Lynn, Oscar Johnson is arguing with Sidney Martin. Martin wants to follow standard operating procedure by sending... (full context)
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...just happened. Martin has written everyone’s name down (except for Cacciato), marking them as traitors. Oscar produces a grenade from his belt and tells the soldiers that “it’s all about preservation.”... (full context)
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
While Lieutenant Sidney Martin is in the tunnel, Oscar raises his grenade. He tells everyone present to touch the grenade as a sign of... (full context)
Chapter 35
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...Then, as Cacciato continues to fish, Berlin walks back to the other soldiers and hands Oscar the grenade. Berlin explains that Cacciato touched the grenade, but that he’s too busy fishing... (full context)
Chapter 36
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...where they’re washed and cleaned. Then they’re sent back to their cell. There, Doc and Oscar write letters, while most of the soldiers sleep. Paul Berlin can’t sleep—he stays up, wondering... (full context)
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...his cell. Outside, he continues running, and imagines a getaway car, too—“why not?” he thinks. Oscar drives everyone away from the prison. Berlin sits with Sarkin in the back seat. Oscar... (full context)
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...few signs of understanding what he was being asked to support. As Berlin considers this, Oscar drives the car across the border—the soldiers have arrived in Turkey. Shortly before dawn, they... (full context)
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
Oscar tells Berlin to take the wheel while he gets some rest. Berlin obliges. They drive... (full context)
Chapter 38
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...(a city in Turkey). From Izmir, they have little trouble arranging ship’s passage to Athens. Oscar makes the proper arrangements under the table in various taverns in the city. The passage... (full context)
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...a group of police officers, who seem to be trying to match faces to photographs. Oscar concludes that the officers are looking for them. Stink swears, and Doc mutters, “We came... (full context)
Chapter 40
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
As the girl drives the soldiers past her village, Oscar abruptly raises his rifle and orders the girl to stop. She does, smiling the entire... (full context)
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Oscar drives the soldiers and Sarkin into Germany. They pass by the Danube. “It was easy,”... (full context)
Chapter 41
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...rummage through Buff’s helmet. He finds a stick of gum, which he proceeds to chew. Oscar Johnson tells the soldiers the “lesson” of Buff’s death—“Don’ never get shot.” (full context)
Chapter 43
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...find the soldiers, including Lieutenant Corson, standing in the doorway, carrying their bags and guns. Oscar Johnson orders Berlin to pack his things immediately—the soldiers need to leave. Berlin asks for... (full context)
Chapter 44
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 46
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
With Lieutenant Corson gone, Oscar Johnson becomes the soldiers’ official commanding officer. He orders everyone to stake out Cacciato’s hotel... (full context)
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
Oscar tells Berlin and the other soldiers to act as lookouts. He walks away. Some twenty... (full context)
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
Oscar directs his soldiers to proceed inside the hotel. Berlin leads the soldiers up the stairs... (full context)
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Vietnam and the Chaos of War Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
...earlier in the night. He apologizes and says, “I didn’t mean to.” Doc smiles, but Oscar mutters, “Dumbo.” Stink says, “We had him.” (full context)