The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Lieutenant Kitty McCulley, a twenty-one-year-old Kansas girl, wants to provide good service as a U.S. Army nurse in Vietnam, but she has difficulty adjusting to military bureaucracy and the horrifying wounds of American soldiers and Vietnamese civilians. When she almost kills a young Vietnamese girl with an accidental overdose of medication, she is reassigned to a new hospital unit. She is much happier there because she has the opportunity to develop relationships with her patients.

Kitty meets a Vietnamese holy man named Xe. At first, she does not particularly care for Xe, but she notices that Vietnamese people and even some American soldiers treat him with great respect. Most Americans, however, including medical personnel, treat Xe like every other patient. When they operate on him, they insist that he remove his amulet. Xe does so only on the condition that Kitty will wear the amulet during his surgery.

The amulet enables Kitty to see peoples auras, but she does not understand what is happening, and she gladly returns the amulet to Xe when he comes back to the ward. Xe tries to help the wounded soldiers but is prevented from doing so by their ignorance and fear. He sinks into despair as Kitty’s respect and compassion for him grows.

Xe dies and bequeaths his amulet to Kitty. A mutual friend explains to her that auras reveal information about the physical and mental well-being of people and that the amulet will help her use...

(The entire section is 535 words.)