Chapter 19 Summary
The nineteenth story in The Things They Carried is “Field Trip.” It is twenty years after the war, and the narrator has returned to Vietnam with his daughter, Kathleen, who is ten years old. The narrator has taken her to regular tourist sites, though he wishes that he could take her to all of the places that keep him awake at night. The only place that he takes her that is connected to his experience in the war is the field where Kiowa died.
Between the two of them, Kathleen has handled the trip much better than her father. The narrator and his daughter have taken a Jeep to the field and they are accompanied by a government translator. At first, Kathleen spends time with the translator, who shows her magic tricks. However, she eventually approaches her father to tell him that it is weird that he cannot move on from the past. For her, the narrator reflects, the war is as far removed from her life as dinosaurs are. She complains about the smell of the field, but does not figure out that it is human waste.
He looks over the field and considers how it has changed: it no longer looks the way that he remembers it. However, he is certain that this is where Kiowa died. Finally, he returns to the Jeep and takes a small package out of the back. Inside are Kiowa’s moccasins. He strips down to his underwear and wades into the field, noticing how close to his memory the bottom of the field remains. The narrator finally gets to the point where Mitchell Sanders found Kiowa’s rucksack, and he pushes the moccasins into the dirt at the bottom of the field. He thought that he would want to tell Kiowa that he had been a great friend, but instead he says “there it is” and he splashes the water.
In the distance, an old man watches the narrator. Briefly, the narrator thinks about what they might say if they could exchange war stories. Instead, he walks out of the field. When he returns to the dry ground outside the field, his daughter tells him that mother will be angry. The narrator tells her that she should not tell her mother as he returns to the Jeep. Kathleen next asks about the old man and whether he is angry with him. The narrator explains that he hopes that the old man is not angry and that “all that’s finished.”