for "In the Field"
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The themes of guilt, blame, death and responsibility are all part of this chapter. Composing variations on a possible letter to Kiowa’s father is a metaphor for Cross’ indecision about whether he wants to take responsibility or not for the death. The story ends on the dour note of Cross’ decision not to take responsibility after all. The narrator suggests that it is this denial of responsibility that is one of the cultural problems created by the very war. Cross muses:
“When a man died, there had to be blame. Jimmy Cross understood this. You could blame the war. You could blame the idiots who made the war. You could blame Kiowa for going to it…You could blame people who were too lazy to read a newspaper, who were bored by the daily body counts, who switched channels at the mention of politics. You could blame whole nations. You could blame God. You could blame the munitions makers or Karl Marx or a trick of fate or an old man in Omaha who forgot to vote” (174).