An Analysis of Tim O'brien's "Going after Cacciato"

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About this sample


Words: 569 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Words: 569|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024


Tim O'Brien's novel, Going After Cacciato, stands as a seminal work in the canon of Vietnam War literature. With its unique blend of realism and surrealism, the novel navigates the complexities of war, the fluidity of time, and the boundaries of reality and imagination. Through the protagonist, Paul Berlin, O'Brien delves into the psychological landscape of soldiers, exploring themes of fear, escapism, and the search for meaning amidst chaos. This essay aims to analyze the multifaceted narrative structure of Going After Cacciato, its thematic concerns, and its portrayal of the soldier's inner turmoil.

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The narrative structure of Going After Cacciato is one of its most distinctive features. The novel oscillates between three temporal planes: the fantastical journey of Paul Berlin and his squad in pursuit of the runaway soldier Cacciato, the harsh memories of their combat experiences, and Paul Berlin's meditative night watch at the Quang Ngai tower. This non-linear structure reflects the fragmented nature of memory and the disjointed reality of war. O'Brien blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, illustrating how soldiers often retreat into their imaginations to cope with the horrors they face. The quest to Paris, led by Cacciato, serves as a metaphorical escape from the war's brutality, representing a longing for peace and normalcy.

Thematically, Going After Cacciato addresses the concept of escapism in the face of overwhelming trauma. Paul Berlin's daydreams of a journey to Paris with his comrades symbolize a desperate need to find solace and meaning beyond the battlefield. This thematic concern is evident in the character of Cacciato, whose decision to walk away from the war embodies the ultimate act of defiance and search for freedom. O'Brien uses Cacciato's flight as a narrative device to explore deeper questions about duty, morality, and the possibility of desertion as a form of resistance. Furthermore, the novel examines the psychological impact of war on soldiers. Paul Berlin's internal struggles, his fear of cowardice, and his guilt over the deaths of his comrades reveal the profound emotional scars left by combat. O'Brien's portrayal of the soldiers' camaraderie and their shared suffering emphasizes the bonds formed in adversity and the collective yearning for escape.

Another significant aspect of Going After Cacciato is its commentary on the nature of reality and perception. The novel challenges the reader to discern what is real and what is imagined, reflecting the soldiers' own confusion and disorientation. O'Brien employs magical realism to depict the surreal aspects of the war, such as the squad's encounters with bizarre characters and improbable events on their journey. This blending of the fantastic with the real underscores the absurdity of war and highlights the mental escapism as a coping mechanism. The narrative's fluidity mirrors the instability of the soldiers' experiences and the shifting boundaries of their reality.


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In conclusion, Tim O'Brien's Going After Cacciato is a profound exploration of the Vietnam War's psychological and emotional dimensions. Through its innovative narrative structure, the novel captures the fragmented nature of memory and reality, while its themes of escapism, trauma, and the search for meaning resonate deeply with the human experience of war. O'Brien's masterful storytelling invites readers to consider the complexities of duty, morality, and the indelible impact of combat on the human psyche. Ultimately, Going After Cacciato is not just a war novel; it is a poignant reflection on the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring quest for hope and understanding in the face of unimaginable adversity.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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An Analysis of Tim O’Brien’s “Going After Cacciato”. (2024, Jun 07). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 24, 2024, from
“An Analysis of Tim O’Brien’s “Going After Cacciato”.” GradesFixer, 07 Jun. 2024,
An Analysis of Tim O’Brien’s “Going After Cacciato”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 Jul. 2024].
An Analysis of Tim O’Brien’s “Going After Cacciato” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 07 [cited 2024 Jul 24]. Available from:
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