Study Guide

The Colonel (a.k.a. Jamie's Dad) in Shooting the Moon

By Frances O'Roark Dowell

The Colonel (a.k.a. Jamie's Dad)

Attention! The Colonel is coming through, stand aside. This guy makes the hairs on the backs of our necks stand up. We believe Jamie when she tells us:

The Colonel was born to run the show, and he had a drawer full of medals and ribbons to prove it. One of his medals was for saving another soldier's life out in the field. (2.2)

Bravo. It's not hard to see that the Colonel is well respected and admired around the base. Some might even be afraid of him. (We're looking at you, Hollister.)

Why not? The Colonel is fierce, and has the medals and history to back it up. His medal stash is so extensive that they probably don't all fit on one jacket. It's no wonder Jamie idolizes her dad and loves everything about the army because of him. And yet, medals do not a happy soldier make. Pretty quickly, Jamie discovers that her dad's job isn't all it's cracked up to be. Enter: the Vietnam War.

The Colonel's the one who has to decide who will go to war (read: risk death) and who will stay home. That's a tough job for anyone. Any takers? After seeing a photo of her dad looking haggard, Jamie finally gets it.

There was no doubt about it. The Colonel looked like a man who hated his job. (8.44)

Whoa. Until now, Jamie's thought her dad loves his job. Now she knows better, though. Her surprise at seeing how tattered her dad peels back her childhood understanding of him to reveal a more realistic and complex character. To Jamie, the Colonel has always been happy in the army—the reality, of course, is that he's miserable because he has to send people off to war. This helps us see just how young and naïve Jamie can be as she stands on the cusp of childhood and becoming a teen. Even a macho army guy doesn't want to sign kids' death sentences. Who would?