Fear can be a self-destructive emotion if people let it overwhelm them. First Class Private Paul Berlin is new to war. He does numerous things to keep his mind from being afraid. These things include pretending he is not in the war, pretending he is a little boy again camping with his father. He is imagining what he is going to tell his parents about the war, counting his steps, singing, and even laughing. But in the end, he is unable to cease his fear.
In the story "Where Have You Gone, Charming Billy? ," by Tim O'Brien, the three main literary elements are theme, irony, and setting because it shows the true meaning of Paul's fear. In "Where Have You Gone, Charming Billy? ," one of the main themes is that fear alone can kill you. For example, in attempt to explain to the soldiers that Billy Boy did not die from stepping on the mine, Doc Pere t states, "you see, Billy Boy really died of a heart attack. He was scared he was gonna die- so scared he had himself a heart attack- and that's what really killed him. I seen it before" (202). This shows that Billy Boy's own fear killed him.
Because he was unable to believe that the wound wasn't going to kill him, and that the war was over, he gave himself a heart attack. In addition, when Private First Class Paul Berlin could not stop laughing over the thought of what had happened to Billy Boy he realized "the giggles were caught in his throat, drowning him in his own laughter: scared to death like Billy Boy" (203). This reveals that Paul's laughter was a result of his own fear. No matter how hard he tries, Paul cannot stop being afraid.
Sometimes, even knowing the consequences, emotions, such as fear, cannot be controlled.