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Tim OBriens novel Going After Cacciato Critical Argument

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Introduction

Syverud - Going After Cacciato Critical Argument #2 Water is the most important symbol in Tim O?Brien?s novel Going After Cacciato. For the main character, Paul Berlin, water had always been a positive constant in his life. He grew up along the Des Moines River and for him water represented peace, calm and safety. But, in Vietnam water begins to take on a new meaning. Although Berlin desperately clings to his idea of water as a constructive force, in Vietnam his world is upended and water is no longer benevolent, it is something to be related with malevolence. It is obvious throughout Going After Cacciato that water as a symbol has many positive connotations for Paul Berlin. In his mind water is a safe haven from the chaos of the world. ...read more.

Middle

The water behind him is as solid for him as a bunker. He cannot reconcile his positive views of water with the idea that death could occur in such a peaceful place. On the march to find Cacciato the stream beside the unit acts as a guide, carefully delivering them to their quarry. ?It was soothing to climb and listen to the rush of the water, imagining from the change in sounds how the stream would be breaking over rock, or curving, or slowing at a level spot, or tumbling down to a deep pool? (O?Brien 108.) Even on a dangerous mission in enemy territory Paul Berlin can retain some sense of calm and remove himself from the ever present threat of death. It is no coincidence that his imaginings of their march to Paris take place at an observation post next to the sea. ...read more.

Conclusion

It rained that day and the next day. On the third day, still raining, the craters were high with water, and the charred bodies of the dead bobbed to the surface, bloated now. It was then that Doc Peret named it Lake Country? (O?Brien 177-178.) This image of water is the one that pervades Paul Berlin?s mind. He tries to reconcile it with his life-long assertion that water is a powerful yet positive force, but cannot. He cannot see water as a life source because ?everything in Lake Country was dead? (O?Brien 238.) Water serves as an important motif for how the Vietnam War overturned accepted views and wreaked havoc on anything that made the men feel safe. Paul Berlin clung to water as a symbol of safety and calm until his experience in ?Lake Country? irrevocably links water with death. With this motif O?Brien reveals a small piece of the truth about war. It will challenge everything you held true and maim anything you hold dear. ...read more.

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