Analysis Of Tim O ' Brien 's ' Going After The '

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Paul in Wonderland: Reality vs. Fantasy in Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato
On the surface, Tim O’Brien’s 1978 novel Going After Cacciato seems like a typical telling of the Vietnam War from the perspective of one of the soldiers as the Third Squad searches for Cacciato, a soldier who has gone AWOL. However, a closer reading would reveal that the vast majority of the novel does not actually take place in reality. This search for Cacciato is a fantasy which takes place in Paul Berlin’s head, and the scenarios and even the Vietnamese people who aid the Third Squad are completely fictitious. Only in a handful of chapters does the novel take place in reality, and even fewer of these chapters takes place in one which is permanent. Reading the
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The terminology ‘parts unknown’ is frequently used in fairy tales and other stories in the genre of fantasy, especially as a representation of a ‘good’ place. The fact that they are currently fighting a war in Vietnam, along with knowledge that Vietnam was once a colony of France, juxtaposes Paris with the term ‘parts unknown’, as Paris can be seen similarly to the soldiers fighting the war as the Emerald City is seen in any of the books in the Oz series.
The other chapter that takes place on the battlefield in a permanent reality is chapter 46, the last chapter of the novel. One noticeable comparison between this chapter and the first chapter is that they both share the same name: ‘Going After Cacciato’. This shows that they are both parts of the same scene, where Doc tells Corson the news about Cacciato going AWOL. In this regard, the novel seems to have finally come around full-circle as Paul Berlin fully reenters reality after the fantasy of the Third Squad chasing Cacciato across multiple continents. The beginning of the novel has become the end.
This is even supported by a summary which occurs early in this chapter. “Her smile when she first saw the…of refuge. Such a fine idea.” (325). Berlin wishes the fantasy actually happened. To be in love with Vietnamese refugee and ‘dream girl’ Sarkin Aung Wan, to be with her in Paris and away from the war, to perhaps live ‘happily ever after’. All these things he wants to have happen. Most men have these ‘happy

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