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Going After Cacciato; A deeper meaning into oversimplification
Throughout literary history, the quest for a specific goal, or possession, has been extremely evident in a variety of different groups. Whether there is an assembly of knights searching for the Holy Grail, or a Greek hero striving for ultimate perfection, a quest has provided literature with a journey through time. Most often, the hero's normal goal is to obtain something, or someone, and to eventually return home.The object can be something new, that fulfills a lack in his life, or something that was stolen away from him. In Going After Cacciato by Tim O'brien, the motive for Paul Berlin's quest are self-knowledge and aspiration.The novel is filled with a fantasy journey of what remains of the lieutenant's squad as they try to follow and capture Cacciato on his journey to Paris.In a different perspective, Going After Cacciato retains a Greek temperament because it follows the story of Homer's Odyssey.These two topics make O'Brien's novel more logical, and in a way, ultimately help create a deeper meaning within the story.
Throughout the novel, Paul Berlin periodically slips from actuality to imagination, and focuses on every minute detail that he encounters. Whether it was from his post on the watchtower, or to an exploration covering thousands of miles across Europe and Asia, he was merely imagining. Berlin truly experienced everything on his trip to Paris, even though it was all in his head and intellectual.For example, in Chapter 30, Doc Peret states Insight, vision. What you remember is determined by what you see...where did it tilt from fact to imagination? (O'Brien 206). All of Paul Berlin's unusual and exotic imaginations came directly from his experiences and what he saw previously in life. One of the most prominent encounters he made was when he was residing in the village of Quang Ngai. Berlin recalls meeting a Vietnamese girl with gold hoops in her ears and ugly scabs on her brow (262). This girl makes him rethink his appearance and personality, and he wonders what she thinks of him. This contrast of two completely dissimilar characters represents Berlin's sub-conscious behavior. Even though he has never met her, or much less even talked to her for that matter, Berlin has an interest in how she views him.For Paul Berlin, a simple soldier, it is heartbreaking to meet someone who he desires very dearly, but just can't acknowledge. In a way,they are two sides of the spectrum, like the class of cultures, who will never see each other again. Astonishingly however, he does see her again, but this time in his mind. The girl with the golden hoops is equivalent with Sarkin Aung Wan, the girl he falls in love with on his excursion to Paris. Likewise, this presents the matter of how Berlin's quest is really an insight into self-knowledge.
Berlin's entire trip to Paris is actually a method of getting to know the girl with the golden hoops better. Paul Berlin does generate her in his imagination, however he views her in an idealistic fashion. It is depressing knowing that a ordinary soldier can come to love someone in the country he is fighting a war with, but he knows that he will never see her again. In a way, this is a reflection of the typical hero conquest that is utterly apparent in literature. Moreover, the Odyssey is genuine example of Tim O'Brien's goal to create history, within an imaginary journey.
The novel Going After Cacciato adequately reflects Homer's plot of Odysseus in the Odyssey.For example, it revolves around Odysseus's homecoming to his much beloved wife after the Trojan Wars. Odysseus goes through a diligent journey to accomplish this, traveling nearly a decade, and moving across the globe to get home. It presents the inquiry, what will mankind perform just to return home? In this situation, several diverse meanings are present in this context, all of which can hypothetically be in different places. Home can just be where you eat, sleep, spend time, and live in daily. Homer's situation represents a place where you raise a family, enjoy life, and most importantly, where you feel loved. Odysseus spends nearly a decade trying to return home to his wife because of his inner drive for love and passion. This is what motivates Odysseus, and correspondingly, what motivates Paul Berlin. Paul Berlin is on a journey to Paris with the army and a woman, Sarkin Aung Wan.
The main compelling force driving Berlin is love and affection. He despises the war and all elements accompanied with it, whichis why he never breaks out of his imagination. Berlin wants to enjoy the time away from fighting, and enjoy his trip to Paris, even though it is imaginary. I believe that Paul Berlin doesn't go to Paris because Sarkin Aung Wan wants to, but because of his love for being away from the horrors of battle. Although they were chasing Cacciato the entire way, everyone essentially knew they were deserting even if they didn't say it absolute. And once they got to Paris, everyone was a little happier and contented.Whether it was Lieutenant Corson, who showed great signs of recovery from homesickness, or Doc Peret'shappiness and eagerness for anything, everyone changed. In essence, the book Going After Cacciato was not a search for a runaway soldier, but a search for inner love. And, ironically, Paris is known as the city of love, so it makes the love all the more apparent. Paul Berlin, much like Odysseus, desires to go home at all expenses to get back to a life of love, peacefulness, and serenity.
Throughout the novel, the hidden meanings and/or interpretations that Tim O'Brien employed are used to create mystery and awe with in the readers mind. Through his use of historical and metaphorical references, and he makes the novel a mixture of different views and perspectives. Not only do these references enhance the overall affect of the novel, but also they make it a more interesting read. On the surface, the book appears to reflect a soldier who went AWOL, and is chasing a friend named Paul Berlin. In reality however, Berlin is a misconstrued soldier who is imagining things, and through various flashbacks, lives through many experiences.