Going After Cacciato


Tim O’Brien

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Going After Cacciato: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

It is 2 AM, December 1968, and Paul Berlin is sitting on a train, the Delhi Express, traveling away from Mandalay to Chittagong. The only other soldier who is awake is Lieutenant Corson. Corson confesses to Berlin that he sometimes feels like he’s in the middle of a dream. He tells Berlin that Berlin is a “good lad.” Then, unexpectedly, Corson adds, “We’ve been kidnapped.” At first, Berlin laughs, thinking Corson is joking. Then he realizes that his lieutenant is being serious. Corson begins to giggle. He asks Berlin if he’s ever seen Bob Hope’s “Road” movies.
These chapters all have similar names, and reference the “Road to Paris.” This seems to be an homage to the beloved Bob Hope “Road” movies of the 40s and 50s, and underscores a mood of giddy comedy that’s juxtaposed with grim realism. What Corson means when he says “we’ve been kidnapped” is unclear: perhaps he’s stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the obvious truth that he and the soldiers want to go to Paris.
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The next morning, the soldiers are preparing to search their train. Stink will stand in the aisle, waiting for Cacciato to run away, while the other soldiers search the cars. Berlin proceeds through the train, asking people for identification. Most of the passengers comply, but they look at Berlin with a 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 empty.
Whenever the soldiers lose sight of Cacciato, they discover a convenient clue, reminding them that they’re moving in the right direction. This is, of course, highly implausible—but plausibility has more or less gone out the window by this point in the book. The goal of the story isn’t to convince anyone—it’s to provide satisfaction for the teller, presumably Paul Berlin himself.
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