Tim O'Brien Message Board
Joe Chavez posts on 1/1/2012
Joe Chavez has just written a review of Going After Cacciato which you can see here
posts on 10/4/2006 12:38:15 PM
Hi, I am having a hard time deciding whether Donna or Lorna Sue is the antagonist and also which one is the foil. Could you help please, thanks.
posts on 5/2/2006 6:13:52 PM
I emailed Tim O'Brien very confused about the ending myself. Here is what he told me:
On one level, the book is a mystery story. What happened to Kathy Wade? Did she wander off and die accidentally? Did she deliberately flee, either alone or with a lover? Is she still lost in the wilderness? Did she and John conspire to disappear together and begin a new life? Or did John murder her? All of these are presented as possibilities, but the novel is not as indeterminate or unresolved as it may seem. As in Going After Cacciato, some events did happen while others take place only in the imagination. True, the purported writer of the book, who speaks to us in footnotes and authorial comments--and who hints that his own life has important resemblances to that of both John Wade and Tim O'Brien--ends by suggesting that we can choose to believe whichever scenario we wish. However, all the possible scenarios, with one exception, are presented only in the eight chapters entitled "Hypothesis," where they are liberally sprinkled with "maybe" and "perhaps." Each of these hypothetical scenarios is merely an act of imagination. Each involves some form of escape from the hideous event that did happen, outlined in the chapters "What He Remembered," "How the Night Passed," and "What He Did Next," titles indicating the actuality that can be recalled.
Although John cannot remember whether or not he murdered his wife, enough details surface from the depths of his memory--not his imagination--to allow readers to reconstruct the gruesome scene. Unless, O'Brien suggests, readers would rather indulge in elaborate fantasies of denial.
On the night of Kathy's disappearance, John got out of bed in a murderous rage, poured a kettle full of boiling water on each houseplant in the cabin, and then poured another kettle full of boiling water on Kathy's face. Fragments of her screaming death agony, buried deep under layers of denial, later keep erupting from Wade's memory. He next concealed the crime by carefully weighting both her body and the boat and burying each at the bottom of the lake. He thus reenacts once again the murder he committed at My Lai and his attempts to expunge all records--and memory--of this act that was too awful to be possible.
My Lai, in Wade's mind, has become just a nightmare of "impossible events": "This could not have happened. Therefore it did not." The most grisly detail of Kathy's death, repeated several times in the novel, evokes the same response:
Puffs of steam rose from the sockets of her eyes.
Impossible, of course.
David J. Tower posts on 7/4/2005 10:24:32 PM
There is no doubt, within the framework of this novel, that John Wade has grotesquely murdered and "disappeared" his wife. All alternative interpretations simply point to Americans' inability to accept the military and psychological horrors we have committed, and are likely still committing.
y own wife disagrees with me and says that "we can't know." Any thoughts?
ed posts on 6/25/2005 4:04:54 PM
I've read several. I think my favorite is If I Die in a Combat Zone. It's nonfiction, but he changed the names. True tales from what the Vietnamese call "The American War."
Note: the views expressed here are only those of the posters.