Here is a mock movie preview made by another AP Lit Comp student from a couple of years ago; he made it using clips from the movie "Tropic Thunder," and it honestly made me laugh just thinking about it, so I chose this as a little, well, not quite a summary, but close. (Also the other ones I watched were a little painful to look at...these projects are tough to do and some are even tougher to watch).
O'Brien has said, "For me, the purpose of writing fiction is to explore moral quandaries. The best fiction is almost always the fiction which has a character having to make a difficult moral choice [...] My concerns have to do with the abstractions: ... How does one do right in an evil situation?" Writing as someone who has been somewhat displaced by his experiences in Viet Nam, O'Brien is attempting to move beyond the knee-jerk response to the physical and psychological violence of warfare and take from the experience some measure of goodness. http://www.stfrancis.edu/content/en/student/O%27Brien/cacciato.htm
Many of the themes of Going After Cacciato can all be tied back to that old phrase, "War is hell." I suppose that could be counted as one of the themes (one website claimed this was the major theme, but I felt like, "nah, that's entirely too simple." But then I realized, the other themes I thought of could also relate to that one...) War is hell, and in this story, every character responds to the physical, mental, and emotional taxation of fighting in Vietnam differently, according to his (or her, in Sarkin Aung Wan's case) individual personality (O'Brien takes the time to give every character that enters the story a distinct personality). Every soldier not only must fight to hang onto his own life and being, but he must also make some very tough moral decisions (see O'Brien's quote above). Does Paul Berlin obey the lieutenant's orders and risk being charged with going AWOL for chasing down Cacciato? Like O'Brien asks above, how do each of the soldiers do right in an evil situation such as a war? Should they even bother with trying to do right? There are many moral conundrums the characters must face.
The story alludes to Alice in Wonderland at one point--when the squad falls into a Vietcong tunnel system, they get lost on the way out, and they end up "falling back out" the way they fell in. I also wondered what the tunnels were like in Vietnam--the description of the one in the story was fantastic and sounded quite comfortable (it was not actually a functioning soldiers' complex, but the intricate prison of a Vietnamese draft dodger), but I also wondered how they could have been lost in the system for so long. So I looked it up and found many results and examples:
O'Brien also employs many rhetorical questions: "It could be done. Wasn't that the critical point?"
"[a photo of] Cacciato holding up the dead boy's head by a shock of brilliant black hair, Cacciato smiling. But who was he?"
O'Brien is a master of imagery of all sorts; he can describe the jungle, a tunnel, or a kitchen back home as realistically and basically or as artistically and surrealistically as possible. He is very descriptive and thorough. "He pictured the telephone. It was there in the kitchen, to the left of the sink. It was black. Black, because his father hated pastels on his telephones. Then he imagined the ring. He remembered it clearly, both how it sounded in the kitchen and in the basement, where his father had rigged up an extra bell, much louder sounding against the cement."
"Sure, it was the hour. Things shimmered silver in the moonlight, the sea and the coils of wire below the tower, the sand winding along the beach. The night was moving now...the night moved in waves, fluttering. The grasses inland moved, and the far trees."
Direct characterization is abundant. "Eddi Lazzutti loved to sing. He sang marching songs and nursery ballads. Sometimes he sang folk songs, though he was not a radical and despised music created for a cause."
"Clean and smooth like a tar runway, his forehead sloped sharply down and out. His nose was full but neither flat nor flared...A stiffness of neck. An aristocrat's way of turning the body to address a person or thing, a bearing signaling immense self-discipline."
Indirect characterization, though not as common as direct in O'Brien novels, is also present. For example, the first lieutenant, Sidney Martin, elicited responses from men that often were rebellious and slightly angry. O'Brien wrote that the men respected him, and that Martin was professional and went by the book when it came to military operations. Despite the soldiers' respect, they did at one point refuse to obey his orders to search the tunnels before blasting them--The men apparently were getting sick of doing everything the harder, by-the-book way.
Well...Seeing as this is our first chance at remixing a literary analysis, and also the fact that I'm no computer genius nor video-editing whiz, I hope I did alright for my first attempt. Hopefully next time I'll think up some cooler, more thorough sources and concepts that make these analyses more in depth and interesting.