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Johnny Got His Gun

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dignity because he could no longer interact with other humans. It was the

author's idea of the worst case scenario that could have occurred to a

soldier who was injured. The description of his injuries gave the reader a

picture of what it would be like to have lived with no legs, arms, or a face.

It was a gruesome thought that helped personalize the story by making the

reader feel bad for the main character. At this time many perceived fighting

in a war to be noble but for most of the soldiers it was anything but noble.

Many times television shows, movies, and books had glamorized war, but that

was not the truth. This book showed the harsh reality of war that most people

didn't know existed at the time. War is something that no man should ever

hope for, but young men were told that it was glorious to fight for your

country. The reality was that they put their lives on the line every day to

fight for their country. It may have been heroic but definitely not glamorous

to kill another human. In some cases, soldiers who were in wars had severe

mental problems when they would return home from war because of the brutality

they saw. When Joe finally became conscience of his surroundings he realized

what had happened to him. Due to his injuries Joe was isolated from the rest

of the world. This made it so that he didn't even know if he was awake or

sleeping. He kept having flashbacks to the war and to his life previous to

the war. Then when he realized that his life was over he wanted to end it but

he had no power to. He told others through morse code but they denied him

death. The life that Joe Bonham led after his injuries was in no way

glamorous but instead the worst possible way to live

When I originally started reading this book I thought that war was a

necessary part of our society to keep other countries in order, but now I

realize that war serves no purpose whatsoever. It is just a waste of

resources and life that could be better used. I still believe that we should

have an army to protect us but I now feel that we should use more restraint

when sending in military force. In most cases it is not necessary to shed

blood in other countries. I believe that our army should only be used in

extreme cases when there is no other solution. In most cases it would be

possible to resolve a problem without fighting but it is easier to just fight

over it. Which unfortunately happens far too often in our society. Plus now

with all of the nuclear weapons that have been created another huge war could

end the world. Obviously this is not a good solution, which is why we must

find other ways to solve our disputes. This book changed my attitude towards

war and the men who fight in them.

As evidenced from the past tense verb in the title of the novel, Johnny Got His Gun takes as its focus the aftermath of war for a soldier, rather than the optimistic, patriotic prewar time frame upon which other novels--as well as the original song "Johnny Get Your Gun"--focus. Although the novel remains clear about the fact that Johnny received his injuries from an exploding shell, Johnny does not ever think back to combat warfare. The novel takes as its opponent not combat warfare but rather the mentality of warfare and organization of modern warfare by the moneyed classes. Joe's memories related to the war, such as the Lazarus story, or the story of the man with a flap over his stomach, do not directly deal with warfare. Instead, these various memories create a sense of the incomprehensible decay, injury, and pain that result from war. Joe remembers the stories with a wry tone that gives a sense of the absurdity of each of the situations--such as the rumor about the man who lost his face only to return home and die at his wife's hands. In this sense, the use of the war in the text remains true to its use in the title of the novel: the war exists as a precondition for senseless and grotesque injury and pain.

Revisiting the Classics

Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo

Available in a 1989 Bantam edition; 243 pages, paper, $6.99

Reviewed by Ethan Young

When I first read Johnny Got His Gun I was in high school. It was the peak of the Vietnam war, and Phil Ochs' song "I Ain't Marchin'

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