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Johnny Got His Gun

Essay by review  •  February 5, 2011  •  Essay  •  756 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,046 Views

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Johnny Got His Gun

Johnny Got His Gun is a striking literary work about a young man, Joe Bonham, and his internal struggles following a devastating war injury. He lost his arms, legs, and face. Dalton Trumbo, the author Johnny Got His Gun, allows the reader to know Bonham's thoughts, but nothing more. The reader follows Joe's progression toward and away from insanity, and between hope and despair. Trumbo shows this progression through the use of a plethora of literary techniques. Characterization is one of the most extensively used techniques. A great deal can be understood about Joe's feelings and thoughts by seeing how he interprets characters. The reader ponders many ideas when thinking about characterization used in this book: reality of characters, stereotyping of characters, and motivation of characters.

In order to make sense of this book, the reader needs to assume at least one character to be real. Joe is most easily assumed real. The crux of this book is criticism of war, and the criticism becomes most apparent if Joe is real. Reality of other characters is difficult to distinguish. The people Joe remembers are real, at least to him. He has memories of their personalities and what they looked like. He can recall specific memories of events with these people. There are also characters Joe encounters while he is lying in his bed after the accident. These characters are very flat. They do not develop, and we know little about their thoughts or emotions. Joe only knows about them what he can tell by the feel of their footsteps and their hands. There are characters such as the rat that the reader cannot tell are real or not. At first Joe believes the rat is real, but then decides it is not (Trumbo, 94). In fact, the reader has no way of knowing what is real and what is not. The reader can only guess from Joe's observations. In Joe's physical and mental state, what Joe assumes to be rats could be nurses, and what he assumes to be nurses could be rats. Or they could all be careful experiments designed by scientists to look at the reactions of their new toy. The reader needs to carefully examine Joe's observation of characters to make this decision.

There are subtle stereotypes throughout the novel. Joe believes the nurse with the heavy footsteps and hard hands to be a middle aged woman with graying hair. The nurse with soft hands is a young, beautiful woman. Joe can be stereotyped as a "slut". He discusses many different girls he has slept with, and he rarely conveys any feelings

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