Confusion in War Essay

Confusion in War Essay

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The war in Vietnam is without a doubt an outlier in comparison to every other U.S. war, specifically as the only war that the U.S. has ever lost. Losing the war may have been a direct result of a draft that placed young men in Vietnam, many of whom had absolutely no personal goals other than survival. This sets the scene for Going After Cacciato and its main character Paul Berlin. The book is told in the form of three stories. Sixteen chapters are a narrative of the real war, focusing on the deaths of the men in Berlin’s squadron, another ten chapters depict a single full night when Berlin decides to take the whole watch rather than wake up one of his companions, and the other twenty chapters center on the squad’s imaginative journey to Paris chasing Cacciato. Berlin spends essentially the entire novel trying to come up with his own stories, one a true recollection of what actually happened and another, the fictional account he can tell when he returns home. The book is metafictional; it explores the process of writing a war story (Calloway 188). In Going After Cacciato Tim O'Brien utilizes metafiction to examine the confusion of war.
O’Brien’s narrative structure demonstrates the confusion of war. In no particular sequence, he explores three separate narratives, but only two of these narratives happen according to a logical progression. The observation post narrative starts with Berlin at the beginning of his night shift and proceeds to the morning. The Cacciato chapters similarly follow a chronological order, common in most fictional novels; however, the chapters which document Berlin’s real war memories intentionally follow no order, only separately cataloging his fallen comrades. Jack Slay describes these chapters as “a litan...


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...ar Story': Metafiction in The Things They Carried." Critique 36, No. 4 Summer 1996: 249-57. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 211. Detroit: Gale, 2006. 187-91. Literature Criticism Online. Web. 14 Apr. 2014.
Farrell, Susan. Critical Companion to Tim O'Brien. New York: InfoBase, 2011. Print.
Freeman, Charlotte M. "Critical Essay on Going After Cacciato." Novels for Students. Vol. 37. Detroit: Gale, 2011. 188-92. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 9 Apr. 2014.
Herzog, Tobey C. Tim O'Brien. New York: Twayne, 1997. Print.
O'Brien, Tim. Going After Cacciato. New York: Dell, 1978. Print.
Slay, Jack, Jr. "A Rumor of War: Another look at the Observation Post in Tim O'Brien's Going After Cacciato." Critique 41, No. 1 Fall 1999: n. pag. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 211. Detroit: Gale, 2006. 193-96. Literature Criticism Online. Web. 14 Apr. 2014.

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