Chapters 7-8 Summary
The cart carrying the three women with Paul Berlin continues on the road toward Paris, and the other soldiers follow along. They ride for ten hours a day, stopping only to water the buffalo. They see no villages, only the dusty road curving over the plain. The vegetation is dry before the coming rainy season. As the cart moves along the road, Paul and Sarkin Aung Wan bump against other—not so accidentally. Paul thinks about the girls in Quang Ngai, whose beauty was quickly eroded away by poverty. Sarkin Aung Wan asks Paul if he and the others are soldiers. When he replies that they are, Sarkin Aung Wan is discouraged to learn that the war has come this far west. Paul is not sure, but he believes the war is still going on, although Doc Peret thinks it is over. Sarkin Aung Wan sighs and states that they must go on.
At night, the two older women sob for their lost buffalo. They cannot be consoled, and in the morning they climb back on the cart facing backward, looking back to where the dead buffalo had been buried. The lieutenant tells Paul that they cannot keep on with the women. Paul is distressed to think of their being dumped along the road, but the lieutenant says only that war is a nasty thing. Sarkin Aung Wan assures him that she is strong, showing him her muscular legs and back. She promises that she will carry her own load and offers to be their guide, but Paul tells her that Cacciato is their guide. Soon, they find signs of Cacciato’s passing—a few M&Ms along a branch in the road. Then one night they capture Cacciato.
Back at the observation in November, following the quest to catch Cacciato, Paul continues to stand guard duty. His turn is over and he is to wake up Doc Peret to replace him, but he does not. He walks down to the sea, wades in, and relieves himself in the water. Walking back on shore, he marvels that the rickety observation platform is still standing. He climbs back up and resumes his post. He remembers his father telling him that he will see some terrible stuff, so he must make sure that he looks for good things too. He has done this, thinking what he might have seen on the road to Paris. He makes his report over the radio and then sits smoking a cigarette, thinking about the good things.