In Tim O'Brien's work The Things They Carried, what are the themes, the tones, and the narrative styles of the chapter titled "Field Trip"?
The linked series of short stories The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien is a fictional account of the author's experiences as part of a platoon fighting in the Vietnam War. "Field Trip" is about a return trip to Vietnam twenty years later that O'Brien makes with his ten-year-old daughter. In it, O'Brien refers to another story in the collection, "In the Field," a horrific account of an encounter with the enemy in excrement-filled mire in which Kiowa, one of O'Brien's companions, is killed.
O'Brien has returned to the site of Kiowa's death, but everything has changed. The field is smaller than he remembers and is mostly dry. There are yellow butterflies, grass, sunlight, blue sky, and a breeze. Significantly, O'Brien mentions that there are no ghosts and it is quiet and peaceful.
"Field Trip" is told in a simple, straightforward narrative style. O'Brien's intention is to contrast this setting in its present form with the nightmarish attack when O'Brien was at war in this same field. One of the themes involves this contrast between the horrific fighting of twenty years previously with the peaceful pastoral village farming life to which this area has reverted. O'Brien also shows the difference between the way that he perceives this area, with all the terrible memories attached to it, and the way that his daughter sees it, as simple a smelly place in the middle of nowhere.
The tone throughout the story is contemplative. O'Brien makes clear the main theme of the story at the beginning and again at the end. He wants to find peace with the memories of this place and the death of his friend. In the first paragraph he writes: "I looked for signs of forgiveness or personal grace or whatever else the land might offer." In the end, it seems that he has found what he has been looking for, because he says, "All that's finished."