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Fallen Angels

Summary Chapters 10–12
Summary Chapters 10–12

The letters from the military troop to their loved ones back home reinforce the myths of war and provide meaning to their overseas experience. Richie’s letter to Lieutenant Carroll’s wife, like his letters to his mother and to Kenny, is a sanitized narrative meant to shield the recipient from pain. Richie politely praises Carroll’s service and expresses regret at having to report his death. The letter appeals to popular myths of war, giving Carroll’s death meaning by characterizing it as a brave man’s sacrifice for his country. In stark contrast to the sanitized version invented by Richie, Carroll’s actual death provokes intense anxiety and doubt in the men under his command. For them, there is no easy, comprehensible reason for Carroll’s death. Groping blindly, guiltily, and fearfully for answers, Lobel even feels that he might be at fault for Carroll’s death, as if his own terror could somehow have killed his leader. Though Richie knows that the myths of warfare fail to represent the realities of the war, he is wise and sensitive enough to recognize that these myths are useful for relating tragic news. He is becoming as savvy as his superiors in the army, learning how to wield untruths successfully while not falling prey to their seductive power.

As warfare changes Richie, he begins to feel strongly that he needs to mend his relationship with his mother. Richie has never felt close to his mother because of her alcoholism, and Kenny is the only one in his family with whom he feels a strong connection. Now, however, as the terrors of war become more salient, Richie realizes that he needs as many human connections as possible, and what he seeks from his mother is the sort of maternal protection that mothers instinctively offer their children. The letter that Richie’s mother sends to Peewee causes Richie to change his relationship with her. He finally writes a meaningful letter to his mother, one that expresses his feelings and begins to heal their damaged relationship.