The Barracks Thief begins with a short prologue introducing the character who will narrate much of the tale. Philip Bishop, the elder son of a marriage that has ended badly, impulsively enlists in the Army, leaving behind his worried mother and vulnerable younger brother. At this point, the story shifts into the first person to recount Philip’s military experiences. Philip meets Hubbard and Lewis when he arrives at Fort Bragg. Ignored by the rest of the company, the three newcomers reluctantly become companions and form a bond when they are assigned to guard an ammunition dump together. They each reveal something about their prior lives at home. Hubbard focuses on his two closest buddies and their shared love of cars. He confesses that he could never kill anyone and worries about being sent to Vietnam. In contrast, Lewis presents himself as a tough guy and experienced womanizer. He makes light of an incident where he hesitated to rappel down a cliff during training exercises. Lewis was particularly offended when the sergeant on duty called him “Tinkerbell.” Their conversation is interrupted by the appearance of a car bearing two local policemen. Warned that a forest fire might ignite the dump, the soldiers rudely turn away the men, and recklessly decide to stand by their post, developing an illusory sense of power and bravery.
Soon after, some men in the company are dispatched to Oakland to await assignments overseas. One day they are assigned crowd-control duty during...
(The entire section is 612 words.)