Mendoza, Max

Kessler, Nik


“Where Have You Gone Charming Billy?”




In “Where Have You Gone Charming Billy”, the main character is Private First Class Paul Berlin.  The story takes place in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.  It is Paul’s first day and he is having an extremely hard time fighting anxiety and fear.  One soldier in his platoon has already died from a heart attack.  He was literally scared to death.  Other soldiers tell Paul that we will just get used to living in the fearful jungle.  Private First Class Paul Berlin is not sure if he will ever get used to all of the anxiety of war.  “They would have their rear guarded by three thousand miles of ocean, and they would swim and dive in to the breakers and hunt crayfish and smell salt, and they would be safe.”  “But even when he smelled salt and heard the sea, he could not stop being afraid.”

The conflicts in the story include (person vs. self) and (person vs. society). (Person vs. self) is that Paul has to try to overcome his fears in the war. (Person vs. society) is that Paul had to enter the war because of the society. 

Character Development:  

Private First Class Paul Berlin’s character didn’t change or develop very much through out the story. His character towards other characters changed, but he was always afraid. Paul learned that “fear came in many degrees and types and categories…” Paul went from staying quiet and being afraid to laughing and trying to hide his fear. In the book, it states that Paul was afraid in the beginning and still in the end. At the end it states “But even when he smelled salt and heard the sea, he could not stop being afraid.” Tim O’Brien uses direct characterization to describe the characters. He uses direct characterization because the story is told in third person limited point of view. 


Fear – the major theme of this short story was to show how scary war was. Paul Berlin experienced his fears in through out the entire story. “Though he was afraid, he now knew that fear came in many degrees and types and peculiar categories…” and “I don’t wanna scare you. You’ll get used to it soon enough…” are quotes that express Paul’s fears.

Courage – Paul Berlin learned that he would have to have to have courage if he wanted to overcome his fear of the war. Although he did not complete his goal of overcoming his fear in the story he learned how to overcome it and is closer to overcoming his fear. 

Determination - Paul had to have determination to stay strong in the war. When he could have dropped out of the terrifying war, he decides to fight through it and not give up.