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Characters

Meet the Cast

Tim O'Brien

There are three important Tims in the story: Tim the Soldier, Tim the Writer, and Timmy the Kid. They're all the same person, but it's important for you to keep the three separate, so we'll do the...

Rat Kiley

Everybody, and we mean everybody, knows a guy like Rat. First of all, Rat's real name is Bob, but everybody calls him Rat. He's the guy who loves to tell stories, but makes a lot of stuff up in t...

Kiowa

Kiowa is pretty much the most decent character in the entire book. He's thoughtful, respects the Vietnamese, isn't a coward, and he even has a sense of humor. We quickly learn that he's Tim's bes...

First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross

You can't help but feel a little sorry for Jimmy Cross. He's the leader of the platoon, but he's the opposite of the tough, Schwarzenegger or Sam Worthington-type you'd expect of an officer in Vie...

Azar

Azar is the guy who kills puppies. Literally. When Ted Lavender adopts a puppy, Azar straps it to a mine, explodes it, and then completely fails to understand why everyone is mad at him. Yeah....

Mitchell Sanders

Mitchell Sanders is obsessed with the truth. He's the one who's always trying to figure out what the moral is, whether it's of a story or a corpse lying in the road. He doesn't need the moral to...

Norman Bowker

We know more about Norman at peace than we do about Norman at war. At war, we know that he's gentle, but carries a thumb that Mitchell Sanders cut off a VC soldier and gave to him. The only other...

Henry Dobbins

Henry Dobbins is that gentle giant that you see in pretty much any movie or book about a group of people. He's big, so he's the machine gunner of the group, and you'd think that he'd be pretty sca...

Mary Anne Bell

Mary Anne is that pretty, fresh-faced girl next door… who turns into a demon from a horror movie. We think she's ultimately more important as a symbol than as a character, but – what the heck...

Curt Lemon and Ted Lavender

Curt Lemon and Ted Lavender are basically the red shirts of the book. What, you never saw Star Trek? Fine: they're marked for death from their very first mention. Ted Lavender is our very first...

Lee Strunk and Dave Jensen

This is another pair of slightly less important soldiers. In terms of the story, they really only matter when they're with each other, and otherwise, the two are your average pair of cocky young m...

Bobby Jorgenson

Bobby is one of those surprise characters – we start out hating him, and then wham! All of a sudden, we both like and respect him. Well then.He replaces Rat as the team's medic, so automaticall...

Civilians

All of the civilian characters – Kathleen, Martha, Norman's Dad, Sally Gustafson – are important mainly in that they can't possibly understand what the soldiers are going through. They misunde...

Elroy Berdahl

Elroy is a pretty mysterious old guy. He is right there when Tim needs him, and he lets Tim make his own decision about whether to go to Vietnam or run to Canada, without judging him or pushing hi...

Mark Fossie

Mark is just not too bright, we're sorry to say. He's so lovesick that he brings his childhood sweetheart over to Vietnam, and when she starts to change (as people do when they enter a war zone),...

The Slim, Dead, Dainty Young Man of About Twenty

Despite the fact that we know absolutely nothing about the young man's life beyond his physical description and the place that he dies, he still plays an essential role in the book, one that you sh...
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