My plans, maybe just my dreams really, had been to go to college, and to write. . . . All the other guys in the neighborhood thought I was going to college. I wasn’t, and the army was the place I was going to get away from all the questions.
In this passage from Chapter 2, Richie reflects on his dreams, giving us insight into his motivations for joining the army. Enlisting, we learn, was not a well-thought-out decision, but rather a form of escapism. Richie wanted to dodge the real world, questions about his future, and the frustration of seeing his hopes fizzle. He also hints that enlisting was an attempt to escape the judgment of others. He feels that those who had high expectations for him would be disappointed if he could not fulfill them.
Richie is also afraid of not living up to his dreams and disappointing himself. His inability to go to college and become a writer is not due to any personal failure—he excelled in high school—but simply to his family’s extreme poverty. His father abandoned the family years ago, and his mother is a depressive alcoholic who wastes her money on liquor. Richie first calls his hopes for the future “plans” and then revises the word to “dreams,” indicating that these were never really practical or even possible. These plans are impossible in part because of his impoverished situation but also in part because of the lack of encouragement from his mother, teachers, and guidance counselors, none of whom ever took his hopes seriously. As a result, Richie feels strong doubts about his future, which drive him to risk this future by enlisting in the army.