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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; Everyone seems to be waiting for orders and nobody is in control.
Flashbacks are important in order for the reader to understand the character and why he feels and acts the way he does.