Morality in O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato Essay

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Morality in O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato

Going After Cacciato, by Tim O'Brien, is a book that presents many problems in understanding. Simply trying to figure out what is real and what is fantasy and where they combine can be quite a strain on the reader. Yet even more clouded and ambiguous are the larger moral questions raised in this book. There are many so-called "war crimes" or atrocities in this book, ranging from killing a water buffalo to fragging the commanding officer. Yet they are dealt with in an almost offhanded way. They seem to become simply the moral landscape upon which a greater drama is played-- i.e. the drama of running away from war, seeking peace in Paris. This journey after Cacciato turns into a
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This certainly comes out in the fragging incident, when the squad kills Lieutenant Sidney Martin. But there's something more. Another time, O'Brien was quoted as saying, "My concerns have to do with the abstractions: ... How does one do right in an evil situation?" (Bates 263). That is the big question, of course, that this novel deals with. See, the point that O'Brien is making is not that war is an evil situation. He's trying to take that for granted and move beyond. Now that you've got this evil situation, what do you do?

Where is the good? In the observation post, Paul Berlin "remembered what his father had said on their last night along the Des Moines River. 'You'll see some terrible stuff, I guess. That's how it goes. But try to look for the good things, too. They'll be there if you look. So watch for them'" (O'Brien 58). So he does look for the good things. That's beauty being born out of despair, if you will. He enjoys watching the sunrise. And Bates refers to Paul Berlin helping treat a young Vietnamese girl and having sensitive feelings towards her (270). This is almost as if to say that war brings out the best as well as the worst in us. Some may argue that it's almost worth it. ("Almost" being the key word-- for clearly the good in a war does not outweigh or even equal the bad.)

Here's where purpose gets involved. Most believe that there is a greater good. Some reason for fighting the war. Politics. Ideology. The things Paul Berlin thinks
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