Fallen Angels Questions and Answers
by Walter Dean Myers

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Why did Richie leave his home to fight in Vietnam?

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Richie leaves home to fight in Vietnam, as he sees it as his only chance of escape. Like so many young men of his race and class, he feels ground down by poverty and repression. The neighborhood in which he lives offers no future for anyone with dreams and ambitions. If a young man should manage to escape the clutches of gang life, then the best he can look forward to is a dead-end job.

This is no kind of life for anyone, least of all for someone like Richie, whose sensitivity makes him especially unsuited for life in this part of the world. Richie has big dreams and wants to make it as a writer. But he's held back by his current situation, by the grinding poverty that stops him from fulfilling his life's ambitions. He desperately wants to make an impact on the world, but the only way he can do that is by joining the Army and heading off to Vietnam.

Young, confused, and without any obvious prospects, Richie needs some sense of direction in his life, the kind of direction that cannot be provided by his alcoholic mother. It says a lot about the social and economic condition of young African-American males like Richie that the only way they can achieve a sense of purpose is by risking their necks in a seemingly never-ending conflict.

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