What are significant ways some of the eight characters die in Going After Cacciato by Tim O'Brien?

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the most poignantly significant ways one of the eight soldiers dies is that in which Ready Mix dies. He illustrates the feeling in the Vietnam War that it was better to know a soldier's name if it was thought he might die soon. As a result, Ready Mix dies in an assault in the Highlands without anyone knowing who he was.

Another significant way of dying is the death of Lieutenant Sidney Martin. Martin wanted the tunnels to be searched to be sure they were clear before blowing them up, but the men did not agree with this idea. They did agree, however, amongst themselves that Martin should be killed. O'Brien registers that Martin died in an unspecified manner by an unspecified assailant in the tunnels.

Billy Boy Watkins dies a highly symbolic death. His foot wound (a mine severed his foot from his leg when he stepped on it) was not a mortal wound although it proved a fatal wound. Watkins went into shell shock following the injury and Doc Peret asserted his death was death by fright. Watkins, formerly in Berlin's unit, is brought back to memory repeatedly throughout and his song sung. His death symbolizes the deaths in, injuries during and survival of the Vietnam War: all there suffered shell shock from the war, for some it was fatal and for others it was debilitating.

There is often complacency in the acceptance of misery. We fear parting from our familiar roles. We fear the consequences of such a parting. We fear happiness because we fear failure. But we must overcome these fears. We must be brave. It is one thing to speculate about what might be. It is quite another to act in behalf of our dreams