Based on Going After Cacciato, identify textual evidence that relates to the theme of cowardice and courage in a soldier's survival. 

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Going After Cacciato features different examples of textual evidence that suggest that the dynamic of cowardice and courage plays a vital role in a soldier's survival.  This particular element is critical in the novel's development. It helps to define how soldiers need to act in order to fully function in the environment that war has placed upon their soldiers.  This reality is evident when O'Brien describes how the soldiers seek to survive in war: "Counting was one trick. Count the remaining days. Break the days into hours, and count the hours, then break the hours into minutes and count them one by one. And the minutes into seconds."  For Paul and the other soldiers, approaching life in war through increments in which there is so much segmentation that fear is nonexistent is a significant aspect of courage and absence of cowardice is essential within a soldier's survival.

Another example of textual evidence that illuminates the role of courage and the absence of cowardice in contributing to a soldier's survival can be seen in the death of Billy Boy Watkins.  Billy Boy dies out of fear.  He suffers a heart attack as a result of the cowardice that he displays towards the condition of war.  The horrors of the battlefield reveal an intense amount of fear within Billy Boy.  This becomes the reality that terrifies him.  Such a predicament displays how cowardice and the lack of courage within a soldier can cause immediate death and grave consequences.  Billy Boy's death is another example from the text which shows how courage and cowardice play vital roles in a soldier's survival.

While Paul meditates on the need for courage in war and the insistence to push aside cowardice, the text shows how challenging this actually is for the soldier during war.  Paul realizes this in realizing the cowardice and fear in both himself and the other soldiers around him:  

But still Paul Berlin could not move. He heard voices. He heard Stink weeping on hand and knees along the trail, saw him, saw red smoke everywhere. The numbers kept running through his head, he counted, a struck-dumb little yo-yo who can't move.

The cowardice that paralyzes, causing a lack of movement, is what challenges soldiers.  Paul realizes this in his own soul and in the perceptions of those around him.  For Paul, the soldier must "move" and embrace the reality around them with a sense of courage.  However, this is very difficult.  In this condition, the text demonstrates how cowardice and courage play critical roles in a soldier's survival.