Going After Cacciato


Tim O’Brien

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Going After Cacciato: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Some time after the events of Chapter Three, Paul Berlin stays up late at night to serve as a late-night guard. He keeps watch while the other soldiers sleep. To keep himself occupied, he plays with his watch and smokes cigarettes. Alone at night, Berlin dreams about the future. He imagines going back to Fort Dodge and visiting his dad, casually saying that he “won some medals.” Next, he fantasizes about visiting Europe, where he’ll learn French and explore Paris “in Cacciato’s honor.” He maintains that it’s possible for a soldier to walk to Paris.
It’s clear, even from these short paragraphs, that Berlin has an uneasy relationship with his father—clearly he isn’t just “the best of pals” with the man, as he’d been telling himself earlier. Berlin actually suggests that he’s fighting in Vietnam to prove himself to his father, and to earn his father’s respect and love. From this scene, the “observation post” is further presented as a peaceful, dreamlike place where Berlin processes and reimagines his experiences.
Fantasy, Magical Realism, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Obligation vs. Escape Theme Icon
Discontinuity and Trauma Theme Icon
Survival and Self-Preservation Theme Icon
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