Early in the novel, Perry thinks about his reasons for joining the army in the first place. He wanted to earn money to help provide for his younger brother's education. Additionally, Perry saw enlisting as a way to avoid figuring out his next steps after realizing he lacked the financial resources to enroll in college. Perry has had to let go of his dream of "[going] to college and [writing] like James Baldwin" (15).
Perry admits that he enlisted in the army as a way to avoid deciding what to do with his life. He once had dreams of being a philosopher or a writer but lacked the resources to follow an academic path. The army appears to offer a temporary solution for his indecision. Perry expected to enter an environment where his superiors would be making all his decisions for him. However, those decisions start to feel arbitrary. Perry muses on the plane ride to Vietnam: "The only reason I [am] going... [is] because of a paperwork mess-up" (5). The army's inefficiency presents a parallel to Perry's life;