Fallen Angels | Study Guide

Walter Dean Myers

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Fallen Angels | Symbols


The Medical Profile

Perry's medical profile represents both the inefficiency of the government administration of the Vietnam War—because they are not able to locate documents produced within the military for months—and the unequal wartime experiences of poor, largely minority men and affluent, largely white men.

In the first chapter of the novel, Perry is told that "the only reason" he is going to Vietnam is because the processing of his medical profile is delayed. Perry's medical profile documents the injury sustained to his knee while playing basketball for a base team in the army. This injury makes his knee unstable, and he cannot always rely on it to support him when making quick moves or changes in direction. He says sometimes it just gives way. This condition should disqualify him from service in the infantry because men are required to be in peak physical health in order to attack and evade the enemy. However, Perry's medical profile is stuck somewhere in the system, processing, for the months that he serves in Vietnam in the infantry. Perry has a condition that the army doctors deem too severe for infantry service, yet he is still ordered to serve there. The reader must compare his experience with that of the many more affluent men who were able to escape the Vietnam War for significantly less severe conditions.


For Myers's soldiers, Hawaii represents the end of the war, safety, and a return to a normal life. For the reader, it represents an unfulfillable hope, an impossible dream that the soldiers sustain in order to survive their tour in Vietnam. Throughout the novel, the soldiers are convinced that peace talks will soon succeed and that, as a result, their units will withdraw to Hawaii and then return home. The reader knows that the Vietnam War will not end until 1975, when North Vietnamese forces capture the Southern capital of Saigon. Perry arrives in Vietnam in September of 1967 and leaves in 1968. The end of the war is still many years away.

The Doll

The doll that Peewee makes for a Vietnamese child symbolizes the hope that the soldiers are doing something good for the people of South Vietnam. The soldiers do their best to maintain this hope, even in the face of the destruction that they cause and that they see the Viet Cong cause. Peewee makes the doll in Chapter 17, after Charlie Company brings a Vietnamese woman and the two children with her into the American military camp. Headquarters interrogated the woman, but they did not get any information from her and eventually let her go. Peewee decides to make a doll for the kids, as if he were greeting them on a pacification mission. Just as he heads over to hand off the doll, the woman passes one of the children into the arms of a soldier and walks away. The child explodes and blows apart the soldier. Peewee drops the doll in the mud. The explosion and the destruction of that hope represent the reality of the war. The soldiers try to do good, but more often than not, their efforts end in disaster.

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