Going After Cacciato

A review of the novel “Going After Cacciato” by Tim O’Brien and the concept of villainy.

This paper examines the novel Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien about a private named Cacciato in the American army who deserts his post in Vietnam, lays down his rifle and attempts to walk eight thousand miles from the jungles of Indochina to Paris so he can be there for the peace talks and how his fellow soldiers must come after him. It discusses if this act of desertion constitutes villainy in the context of war or if the true villain of the story is the narrator himself since a willingness to follow orders against his good conscience is really a more heinous form of villainy than the action of the title character. It concludes by showing how even good men become villains in such an environment as a bad war, as Vietnam, in violation of all principles of justice.
“O’Brien suggests that Cacciato’s moral nature is like the Vietnam War itself. Like the narrative structure of Going After Cacciato, it is impossible to define and to clarify the moral nature of the central character. Everything about the novel circular, much like Berlin’s own stated view that his mission is simply part of a war like any war. No new messages. Stories that began and ended without transition. No developing drama or tension or direction. No order. (O’Brien, Chapter 42) During American’s struggle in Vietnam, there were no villains, no black versus white, simply mutual errors of perception. In such an environment, there can be no villains and no heroes, and no winners or losers.”