Fallen Angels | Study Guide

Walter Dean Myers

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Fallen Angels | Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

Perry meets Jamal, the medic, who delivers malaria pills to their "hooch," or barracks. Jamal tells Perry that the report about their patrol with the television crew says they killed three Viet Cong soldiers instead of the one whom they really killed. After he leaves, Perry thinks about how he needs "something more in the World" to help him get through the war. He cannot come up with anything, not even a plan for what to do after he leaves the service.

Perry gets "the shits" and is too sick to go out on patrol with the squad. The next day, Johnson and Walowick get into a fight after Johnson calls Walowick a "farm boy," and Walowick responds by calling him a "cootie," a colloquial term for head lice that has racist connotations. The fight is reported to Captain Stewart, but it breaks out again in his office, and he ends it by telling the two soldiers not to talk to each other again.

Lieutenant Carroll needs one man to go out on a patrol with Charlie Company, which is one man short; he chooses Perry to go because he missed one patrol because of his earlier illness.

Analysis

After the television crew leaves, Perry's experience of the war continues to be surreal. He knows that only one Viet Cong soldier was killed while they were on patrol, and he is shocked both that the report claims three were killed and that no one else finds this fact shocking. Walowick suggests that the Viet Cong carry off other bodies, so it might really have been three. Jamal simply indicates that this is how the war works. Body count numbers are inflated by commanders like Captain Stewart, who need to show progress and success in the areas under their command.

Perry's reaction to the "unreal" nature of the war is to search for something real to hold on to—something back home—and he is not alone in this search. Peewee's girlfriend has already left him and married another man, needing the security that the other man could provide. He asks Perry to write a vengeful letter "[j]ust to break her damn heart," but he is unusually quiet after sending it. Both Perry and Peewee search for an anchor back in the real world that will help them survive the unimaginable situations they endure in the war.

Walowick and Johnson's confrontation reflects a kind of racism that was pervasive in the United States and its armed forces in the 1960s, despite the integration of the armed forces decades earlier in 1948 and the progress of the Civil Rights Movement. Captain Stewart's response, telling the soldiers to simply not speak to each other, does little to address the underlying problem that contributes toward racism being a recurrent feature of Perry's experience in the army.

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