Going After Cacciato


Tim O’Brien

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Going After Cacciato: Chapter 38 Summary & Analysis

The chapter opens with the soldiers stationed in Izmir (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 to Athens is remarkably calm—indeed, Lieutenant Corson’s health improves with the sun and fresh sea air. Sarkin is largely responsible for restoring Corson’s health, as well. She spends long periods of time with him, laughing and joking. She even reminds him of his responsibilities, saying, “A leader must lead.”
As the book goes on, the soldiers’ exploits become easier, not harder. They seem to have no trouble organizing a trip to Athens (O’Brien doesn’t even bother to explain how they did it), and even Corson is doing better—the farther he is from Vietnam, the happier and healthier he seems to become. We sense that Sarkin is shifting her allegiance from Berlin to Corson.
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On the second day of the soldiers’ passage to Athens, the ship prepares to dock in the city of Piraeus. The soldiers are preparing to disembark and stroll around when they notice 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 so close.” Stink begs Oscar to think of something, but Oscar can only shake his head. Frightened of being arrested, Stink jumps into the water, just as the ship is pulling to land. Berlin stares into the water, catches a glimpse of Stink, and then finds that he can’t see Stink at all.
We end the chapter with yet another crisis—one which Stink is afraid to confront. At this point, however, we sense that Berlin will, as usual, find a way to resolve the crisis and keep the soldiers on their way to Paris. It’s interesting that the soldiers seem perfectly aware of how lucky they’ve been in traveling to Paris. This may be a fantastical story, but the soldiers still judge their journey by the standards of the real world.
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