David Fleming, an Army intelligence captain, is not, at the beginning of the novel, a sympathetic character. He has, by his own admission, allowed a known Viet Cong officer to escape from a South Vietnamese prison. Through David’s own thoughts, the reader is able to learn why he did what he did. There is a great sense of helplessness that is conveyed when David tells his attorney, Carl Lomas, that he can think of no way to explain his actions; the motivations are too complicated. David does, however, exhibit tremendous integrity. The moment he realizes that he has a child in Vietnam, he contacts Kenneth Trask and has him work out a plan for David to return to Vietnam to find his child, who he is sure is a son. While there are aspects to David’s character that the reader might find unappealing, he is an honorable man. Butler refuses to have a stock Vietnam veteran as his main character. Rather, Fleming is a sensitive, complex man for whom there are no easy answers.
Jennifer Fleming, David’s wife, is seen, more often than not, through the eyes of her husband. The reader is immediately sympathetic toward her because she is pregnant and vulnerable. Her husband is being court-martialed, and there is a strong possibility that she will be rearing their child while he is in prison. The reader is impressed by her strength throughout the ordeal. In addition, she will vent her frustrations and fears to David. Jennifer is a strong character, but she is not a...
(The entire section is 550 words.)