The chapter opens, “What Paul Berlin knew best was land.” He knows the land of Quang Ngai (the site of his seaside observation post) extremely well—he knows the dangerous and safe places, and he knows which areas correspond to which kinds of farmland. He’s interested in rice paddies, which remind him of the hedgerows in Iowa. Berlin also knows a great deal about trails. Often it’s best to stay off the trails, since trails are easy to ambush.
We’ve already been told that the real danger of Vietnam is the land itself, and seen it swallow up an entire squad of soldiers. That Paul Berlin feels a special kinship with the land suggests his past attraction to Sarkin, his growing affinity for war, and the fine line between the familiar and the foreign.
Berlin acquaints himself with the village of Quang Ngai, near which he and his fellow soldiers are stationed. It’s a small village, which has been burned and largely destroyed by war. But the village overlooks the sea, which makes Berlin think of the future, of escape, and of Paris.
Berlin and the other soldiers have been stationed in a small village overlooking the sea. The village is a monument to the destructive powers of the U.S. military, and yet it also makes Berlin think of Paris, a symbol of man’s capacity for peace and understanding.