Course Hero. "Fallen Angels Study Guide." Course Hero. 20 Dec. 2019. Web. 25 July 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Fallen-Angels/>.
Course Hero. (2019, December 20). Fallen Angels Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved July 25, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Fallen-Angels/
(Course Hero, 2019)
Course Hero. "Fallen Angels Study Guide." December 20, 2019. Accessed July 25, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Fallen-Angels/.
Course Hero, "Fallen Angels Study Guide," December 20, 2019, accessed July 25, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Fallen-Angels/.
The only reason you're going to Nam is that it takes forever to process a medical profile.
When Perry joins the military, he does not have any particular feeling about going to the front line. He is focused on playing basketball for his base, but that all changes when he injures his knee. The injury should prevent him from going to the front line because it provides him with a "medical profile" that documents his lack of physical fitness for infantry service. The delay in processing his medical profile means that he will have to go to Vietnam, even though he should be exempted. Foregrounding this mistake in the beginning of the novel means that all of the trauma he suffers, the injuries he sustains, and the difficulties he faces are in some sense unnecessary.
This is the first place I ever been in my life where I got what everybody else got.
Peewee comes from a poor family in Chicago, just as Perry comes from a poor family in New York. The economic stability that the military promises is one of the primary draws for men coming from poor backgrounds. Peewee and Perry are both a part of the army because of these financial opportunities. However, they risk bodily harm and death in exchange. The novel challenges readers to ask whether this is fair and whether it is just.
When Perry is in Vietnam, he often thinks back to his home and his life in New York. In one of those reminiscences, he remembers telling his English teacher that there were times on the basketball court that he felt like taking the easy route, even when it was not the best choice. She responds with the words quoted here, telling Perry that his decision to make the best choice, even when it was more difficult, separated him from others. This trait characterizes all of the soldiers in the novel that Perry trusts, including himself. He views his fellow soldiers as good men if they follow this prescription.
Lord, let us feel pity ... and sorrow for ourselves and all the angel warriors that fall.
When Jenkins dies, Lieutenant Carroll comes to the barracks where the squad lives. The soldiers gather around, and Lieutenant Carroll leads them in a prayer that asks God for pity for Jenkins and sorrow for all soldiers who fall. He tells Perry that his father used to call soldiers "angel warriors" because governments tend to get young boys to fight wars on behalf of the whole country. Perry and the rest of the squad adopt the prayer as their own, even after Lieutenant Carroll passes away. The title of the book, Fallen Angels, refers to this prayer and the young men who die in war: the "angel warriors who fall."
Lobel is obsessed with Hollywood movies, and he uses them as a coping mechanism to deal with the psychological turmoil of the war. Lobel jokes about how after each war, the people are brought over to Hollywood and given parts in movies, and then everything is worked out. In this case, however, his words have a deeper, metaphorical meaning. He claims that he is not afraid because he is "just playing a part." He is playing a part in the sense that he is playing a small role in the larger war effort. He is also playing a part in the sense that he pretends to be many things that he is not—like a brave soldier—in order to survive the war.
As Perry experiences more and more traumatic moments during the war, he is not able to fully process his emotions about everything he has seen. Perry starts to simply avoid thinking about certain things, which is a temporary solution to his problem. His ability to push things out of his mind will help him function in the short term, but this coping mechanism promises to cause psychological distress in the future.
Perry frequently tries to rationalize the war and its horrific experiences. He thinks deeply about why the soldiers are there and what they are trying to do. As his time there continues and he experiences more and more terrible things, Perry acknowledges that most of the time the soldiers are fighting, they have no specific goal. They simply attack, shoot, and try to kill out of sheer terror. Many times, they do not even know what they are shooting at, which leads them into even worse situations, like friendly fire incidents: unknowingly shooting other American soldiers instead of the enemy.
Perry and the other men discuss the reasons why they joined up and whether they would have avoided the draft if they had been drafted. Brew, who was drafted, admits that he considered running away to Canada to avoid coming to Vietnam. Even though Perry volunteered to join the army, he sympathizes with Brew's admission. Perry notes that it is difficult to stand alone against a massive power structure, even when you are confident that it is the right thing to do. The novel's concern with whether the United States is right to be fighting in Vietnam or not suggests that Myers challenges the reader to consider whether the protestors and draft evaders have a just cause.
At many points in the novel, Perry and the other soldiers reassure themselves that the war is far away from them. They feel safe in the camp and have helicopters and other vehicles that transport them into the war zones. They have a false sense of security that allows them to believe that they are safe, and the war is far away. After months of fighting, however, Perry must admit that the war is not far away. They were physically in the middle of the war, and the war was psychologically deep within them.
It didn't stop when they blew the whistle. I didn't know if it would ever stop.
The further Perry gets into the war and the more traumatic experiences he has, the less certain he is that he will ever be able to recover from what he has seen. After the soldiers visit the village where the Viet Cong have murdered one person from each hut, and they find enemy soldiers hiding inside the huts, Perry and the other soldiers feel a certain kind of shock. Perry notices the commanding officers are trying to calm the soldiers down, and he notes that they cannot come down from their battle high that quickly. Perry wonders whether he will ever return to normal, a concern that is common among real-life veterans of all wars.
Perry frequently finds some comfort in writing his letters to Kenny and his mom. They offer him a way to process what is happening in the war, even if he is not willing to finish all of them. He writes many letters that he does not finish and finishes others that he does not send. In this case, Perry debates how much he should tell his little brother about the war and how honest he should be. Perry wants to write about how he is doing his job and doing it well, but he cannot quite comprehend how it is possible to do a good job at killing.
The longer Perry is in the war, the more he realizes that the war has permanently changed him. When he is in the hospital, he sees Judy Duncan again, but he does not know how to talk to her. Even the other soldiers in the hospital think Perry acts a little strange. Perry starts to feel like he is so different from how he used to be that he cannot exist in the real world. He feels like he cannot be "normal" anymore.
When Perry returns to the squad, he finds Sergeant Dongan in charge. Because the sergeant has chosen to put an African American man on point and in the rear, the two most dangerous positions, the only one who trusts him is Brunner. The African American soldiers believe that Dongan's choices are motivated by racism, but they cannot do anything about it. He justifies his actions by saying he did what he thought was right, and the soldiers are forced to deal with it, just as they are forced to endure Brunner's racist comments earlier in the novel.
Throughout the novel, Perry wrestles with the question of why the soldiers are fighting this war. He thinks about it many times, and from many different angles. Toward the end of the book, he comes to the conclusion that the war is not a just war, not when viewed from the soldiers's perspective in the middle of the action, where mistakes and atrocities occur. Instead, it only seems right when viewed from the "big picture" point of view, where the soldiers are fighting for democracy and the benefit of the South Vietnamese people.
We had tasted what it was like being dead ... We would have to learn to be alive again.
When Perry, Monaco, and Peewee make it out of the jungle and into the hospital, they know that they will survive, but none of them are truly "alright." The soldiers all experienced a period of time where they truly believed they were going to die. Now that they were alive, they needed to readjust their perspective. The psychological toll that feeling dead takes on them is not one that they can easily suppress. Each man will have to fight this battle inside of his mind, likely for years to come.