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When Richie Perry first arrives in Vietnam, seventeen
years old and fresh out of high school, he is naïve, lost, and confused.
He has no grasp on the brutal reality of war, no sense of himself,
and no idea of how he wants to build his life. Though he is unusually
bright, sensitive, and talented, all of his big dreams—attending
college, becoming a writer, giving his brother, Kenny, the opportunities
Richie lacked—seem doomed by his poverty. Richie’s father abandoned
the family years before, leaving the two boys with a depressed and
alcoholic mother who spends most of her measly salary on her drinking habit.
Richie sees joining the army as his only chance at escape, a way
to avoid unsettling questions about himself and his future.
At first, Richie’s experience in Vietnam makes him only
more doubtful and confused. The carnage, senseless murders, and
completely antiheroic nature of the battlefield leave him reeling,
adding to his doubts about right and wrong and the morality of the
war. Richie struggles with these difficult issues but never finds
satisfactory answers. He begins to mature without realizing it and
starts to become “the man [he will] be” by asking these complicated
questions. Richie’s sensitivity and inherent curiosity compel him
to reflect on these issues of right and wrong, and also make him
the squad’s unofficial therapist. He is the friend to whom every
soldier in the squad turns when in need of advice or a sympathetic
ear. Richie’s urgent reactions to his battlefield experiences give
him the perspective and insight to become a writer, as they instill
in him a compelling need to represent the truth in words, regardless
of whether the truth is disturbing or uncomfortable. Returning home after
several months of combat, Richie is no closer to solving the problems
that plagued him when he left. He is still too poor to attend college
and has no means to improve his brother’s life, but he has grown
from his experiences and started on the path to manhood and emotional
Ace your assignments with our guide to Fallen Angels!