When Shooting the Moon starts, Jamie is gung-ho about her brother going to war. In fact, she's jealous. TJ gets to use a gun and fight the bad guys while she's stuck at home, going to school. Snooze fest. It's only when Jamie starts to see some of the blood and guts from TJ's photos that she begins to realize that war isn't all glory and excitement like when she played it as a kid. Hmm… Seems like it might have been obvious that war involves blood, but whatever.
We might say that the book is really about Jamie's journey with war since how she thinks about and understands war changes over the course of the book as she deals with it more. Just like Jamie, we're reminded that war in many ways isn't about winning or losing. It's super hard for the soldiers and their families who are left worrying about the fate of their loved ones.
Jamie's attitude toward war demonstrates her naivety and childish notions of life.
Even though Jamie isn't as excited about the Vietnam War at the end of the book, she still supports war in general.
They say a picture speaks a thousand words, but Jamie would rather a letter from her brother, so when she gets sent rolls of film to develop in Shooting the Moon, she's bummed. She wants to learn about all the blood and guts of the war, not see some pictures of huts. Bo-ring. It's not until she realizes that the film is like a letter, just with more details, that she starts to like the pictures. Pretty soon, she enjoys the process of developing the film. She gets to see all the tiny details of each picture while she's bringing them into focus, while appreciating her brother's talented eye for photography. Jamie learns to appreciate the photos as art, and comes to terms with war all at the same time.
TJ uses photography as a way of saying more than words ever could.
Jamie uses art as a way of confronting the truth of war.
Perspective can change the way we see reality. Don't believe us? Try taking a photo of your dog from the floor versus from the couch. Fido will look a lot different from each spot. (Just don't get covered in slobber). For Jamie, the war is an exciting thing that allows people the opportunity to use weapons and fly helicopters. Bloody gauze? Bring it on. Risking your neck? Yes, please. Jamie thinks war is a good part of life and desperately wants to be a part of it.
Then there's the Colonel. He's actually been to war and has the medals to show for it. He knows what it's like to see his buddies come home in body bags, and families mourning their loved ones. Like we said, it's all about perspective. Shooting the Moon helps us see that there are multiple versions of reality out there, depending on where you're sitting.
Shooting the Moon presents us with different versions of reality so we can decide which is best.
Shooting the Moon shows us that multiple realities are often true when it comes to complex issues like war.
Monsters under the bed. Boogie men. The dark. When you're a little kid, fears are pretty easy to come by—as you get older, though, fear becomes more complex and trickier to pin down. It's not that the characters in Shooting the Moon are terrified of some monsters with three heads and an appetite for brains; instead the book asks us to think about how we deal with fears that we can't confront or see. The Colonel fears what will happen to the men he sends overseas to the war; Jamie's mom frets over whether TJ will come home; Jamie worries about who she is without the army. Heavy stuff, we know.
In Shooting the Moon, fear highlights the bad things that are inevitable in a time of war.
Jamie doesn't fear war because she doesn't fully understand it.
If you've been around war novels long enough, you know that "duty" is bound to come up sooner or later. Duty is the bread and butter of books about warfare because wars bring up a lot of questions about who or what people should feel a sense of obligation to. In Shooting the Moon, TJ feels a duty to sign up for the army. Why? For one thing, his buddies are enlisting and dying over there, and he wants to do his part to fight the enemy. The Colonel feels an obligation to the army to abide by their rules and orders—yet at the same time, he also has a duty as a father to protect his son. Sometimes, the duties the characters feel conflict with one another. Ugh.
TJ enlists in the army out of obligation, not because he wants to fight.
TJ enlists in the army because he wants to get revenge for his lost friends, not out of a sense of duty.
Playing pool. Cussing. Watching football. These are all big no-nos for girls in Shooting the Moon. At least, that's what Jamie's told. There's a lot of talk about who can do what, based on gender. Guys can curse like a sailor, throw a mean spiral, and always have the upper hand at cards, while girls, on the other hand, are supposed to be at home cooking up a storm. More casserole, please.
Jamie doesn't bother with any of these rules, though. In fact, she calls them out for the nonsense that they are. Jamie loves football, can beat almost anyone at a game of gin rummy, and is counting down the days until she can join the army. She doesn't care if she's a girl or not. She can do anything the boys can do (and when it comes to cards, better, too).
Jamie calls out gender as something that society constructs, not something you're born with.
Gender roles in Shooting the Moon show us how limiting it is for Jamie when people assume she isn't as capable or strong because she's a girl.
Ah, the good old days, when ice cream was just a nickel and your biggest worry was who was going to win in a game of army. In Shooting the Moon, Jamie tells us a lot about what it was like to grow up on an army base and fondly recalls playing with her brother as a kid. In fact, much of the story is told to us in a series of flashbacks. Did you notice how TJ goes off to war in the very first chapter, but Jamie fills us in on how he got there as the book goes along? That's because she's using her memories to give us all the juicy details.
Memory is very important in the book, and it can be comforting (like looking at old pics with your bro) or frightening (like seeing pictures of the war you were in). Let's just hope you have more of the first kind of memories.
Jamie dwells on the past because it's her only connection to her brother.
Shooting the Moon uses flashbacks to make connections between past and present.
It's time to get deep. What's the meaning of life? How do you know if you have a significant existence? What's the purpose of this whole consciousness thing anyway? Yep, it just got real. Don't say we didn't warn you—on the surface, Shooting the Moon might not be about the nature of existence, but it is when you dig a little deeper.
The Colonel in particular is faced with some big questions about whether he should send certain people off to war, knowing it most likely won't end well. He has to weigh this decision against shipping someone else out. Remember, each one of these guys has a family back home who will be devastated to lose their son/brother/friend. There's no easy decision when it comes to which lives we should value more than others. Welcome to the big leagues, Shmoopers.
Shooting the Moon argues that special treatment should be given to people who have already endured trauma and heartache.
The Colonel doesn't care about photos because he sees more value in living life instead of merely capturing it on film. He believes you have to choose either observation or participation.