1. RISING ACTION • In the summer of 1968, Tim O’Brien receives a draft notice. Despite a desire to follow his convictions and flee to Canada, he feels he would be embarrassed to refuse to fulfill his patriotic duty and so concedes to fight in Vietnam.
CLIMAX • During their tour of duty, the men of the Alpha Company must cope with the loss of their own men and the guilt that comes from killing and watching others die.
FALLING ACTION • After he returns from war, O’Brien grapples with his memories by telling stories about Vietnam.
2. MAJOR CONFLICT • The men of the Alpha Company, especially Tim O’Brien, grapple with the effects—both immediate and long-term—of the Vietnam War.
Tim O’Brien, the author and a Vietnam Veteran, is the protagonist in this novel. Throughout the book he reflects on his experiences in an effort to bring about a sense of redemption.
In this man versus himself conflict, O’Brien is also the antagonist. He struggles with his own feelings of guilt, hatred and cowardice. He inwardly loathes himself for having reported to the draft, and labors to understand why he lives through the war while so many around him died.
The protagonist of the novel. He is a Vietnam veteran who has become a writer since returning home from the war. The stories of his platoon are told through his eyes and involve the tragedy, camaraderie, and ugliness of war.
Lt. Jimmy Cross
The Commanding officer of Alpha Company. He is obsessed with a girl back home in New Jersey, and his preoccupation with her distract his attention from the war and sometimes leads to casualties. This leaves him with an overwhelming sense of guilt.
A deeply religious American Indian soldier in Alpha Company who is respected and loved by the entire platoon. His death deeply affects O’Brien, as well as other soldiers.
Another member of Alpha Company who survives