My plans, maybe just my dreams really, had been to go to college, and to write like James Baldwin. All the other guys in the neighborhood thought I was going to college. I wasn't, and the army was the place I was going to get away from all the questions. (1.19)
Not being able to go to college—and having to admit that to everyone—definitely hurts Perry's pride. He doesn't want anyone to think less of him, so he goes off to risk his life so he doesn't have to talk about it. Don't try this at home, kids.
"My father's a colonel," Jenkins said. "He wanted me to be infantry. He's got this thing, he calls it his game plan. First I volunteer for the army, then I volunteer for infantry and take advanced individual training in infantry. I serve my time over here, then I go to Officers Candidate School." (3.42)
It doesn't seem like Jenkins is too into this game plan. At no point does he say that it's his: he's living out his dad's dream. At least, until he dies it. Now that's a bummer.
As I ran around that day I could hear Mrs. Liebow's words echo in my ears.
"You have to get out of yourself, Perry," she had said. "You're too young to be an observer in your own life." (3.112-113)
Perry has a tendency to watch what's going on around him—to think about it instead of engaging with it. Which could be bad for his career someday. What if he'd rather imagine himself doing great things instead of actually going after them? Hm, sounds like the makings of a famous author, worthy to be Shmooped by millions.
My mind shot ahead. What would I do when I got out? I had read some stuff in Stars and Stripes about Congress expanding the GI Bill. The paper said it didn't look too hopeful. (8.30)
Perry is still worried about having enough money to go to college. At that time, the GI Bill gave veterans a monthly stipend—but would it be enough to cover tuition?
"You know the only thing I'm good at?" "What?" "M-60 machine gun. You know anybody out in the World need a good machine gunner?" (8.27-29)
It's not like Scotty really wants to shoot machine guns all his life. He just doesn't know what he'll do next. The skills you learn in wartime won't necessarily translate to a good job back at home. Still, probably good that machine gunners aren't in high demand in every corner store back home.
The counselor, a short, red-haired woman, with blue eyes that bulged slightly from a thin face, had asked me what I wanted to do in life.
"I'd like to be a philosopher," I had said.
She had started laughing and apologizing at the same time. It was simply not the kind of thing, she explained, that she had expected.
I was hurt. I didn't even know what a philosopher did for sure, but her laughing messed me up. After that I never told anyone I wanted to be a philosopher again, or even a writer. I started telling people in school that I wanted to work on a newspaper. Around the block I told people that I either wanted to play ball or teach. (9.96-99)
Sounds like this guidance counselor needed a guidance counselor to tell her not to work with high school kids. It's clear that Perry's self-esteem really took a hit here. But why did his guidance counselor laugh? Could it have to do with the color of Perry's skin? Maybe—Myers does go out of his way to describe her physically, showing that she's white. Or maybe she just got philosophers confused with stand-up comedians.
The idea of a bookstore is so comforting to me, Lois. I have this vision of me working behind the counter and you taking care of the baby in the back. Better yet, you work at the counter and I'll take care of the baby. Have you considered Karen as a name if it's a girl? It's your mother's name, and I like it. (11.11)
For Carroll, going to his happy place meant the polar opposite environment of a battlefield: a bookstore. He had planned a future that was all comfort and family, partly to get away from his present.
People were not supposed to be made like that. People were not supposed to be twisted bone and tubes that popped out at crazy kid's-toy angles. People were supposed to be sitting and talking and doing. Yes, doing. (18.84)
Know what's the opposite of doing? Observing. Perry is seeing horrific things, but they might just have given him more appreciation for his life. Maybe he'll go after his dreams when he leaves the army after all.
I wished I had a wife and kids. I mean I really wished I had a wife and kids, somebody somewhere that loved me in a way I could look forward to going back to the World to. (20.61)
Part of Perry's problem is when he looks at the future, he comes up blank. He has no idea what he'll do for a job after the army, and he has no idea how changed he'll be from the war. He's also a little lonely, don't you think?
Monaco said he would come by in the morning before his plane left and say good-bye. He didn't. He left a note at the desk, and Celia gave it to me. It said that I had to wear a ring at his wedding. (23.60)
Monaco has to go back into combat, while Perry and Peewee get to go home. Sucks for Monaco. Maybe he didn't stop by to say goodbye because it would be too painful. But don't shed too many tears for this guy: the note about his wedding tells them that he's still making plans. He intends to survive.