Summary of “Field Trip”
O'Brien returns to Vietnam to the scenes of war with his ten-year-old daughter Kathleen twenty years later. He visits the field where Kiowa died, looking for meaning or forgiveness. It was quiet and peaceful. His daughter waits in the jeep with the interpreter as Tim looks around. He records his conversation with his daughter as she asks what the war was about and why he was in it. He can't really answer her, and he sees that the war is irrelevant to her world. The field still stinks, but butterflies make it look pretty. On the other hand, he realizes that the field sucked out his life, and that he has not felt much since the war. He takes photos, then wades into the river with a bundle containing Kiowa's moccasins, wedging them into the mud where he disappeared. He felt that he had gone down with his friend twenty years before, and just now, he is working himself out.
Commentary on “Field Trip”
The feelings O'Brien attributes to other characters are his own. He has been cold and numb like Norman Bowker. He has felt guilt for Kiowa's death like the nameless boy and Lt. Cross. Like Bowker, he tries to explain the war experience to others (his daughter), but it does not make sense to them. O'Brien tries to make peace with a short ceremony depositing Kiowa's moccasins.