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Johnny Got His Gun

Updated April 11, 2020

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Johnny Got His Gun essay

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Johnny Got His Gun This anti-war novel is written from the point of view of an injured World War I infantryman (Joe Bonham). As the plot progresses we realize how severe the injuries are (most of his face has been blown away and eventually his arms and legs must be amputated–leaving a faceless torso) and why the story is being told by an interior monologue voice.

Interspersed with recollections of Joe Bonham’s life is a description of his amazing struggle to remain human. This novel has many important aspects such as main character, main characters dynamic growth and main characters static immobility but the most significant aspect is the use of symbolism. The storys purpose as a whole is to inform that war is not filled with glory but pain and suffering. Life is something much to valuable to be taken for granted. People say Id rather die with honor than live with disgrace. These are the words of stupidity because no one knows what death is like and there is no turning back after you are dead.

Johnny was fortunate enough to be alive after the bomb exploded, however he was operated on so much that the only thing left was a living stump. He could not see, eat, breath, smell, touch, or walk. Only in that state can a person really appreciates life. Johnny got his gun to fight for a cause, but what was that cause? Was he fighting to make the world safe for democracy, was he fighting for glory, for honor, for patriotism? He was used just like many other foolish young and old men who went to fight. They did not really understand what war was all about until they saw the guts of they guy they lived next to their entire childhood spilled across the muddy trenches.

Using Johnny and his experience during the war and after lying in bed for 7 years Trumbo points out his views against war and injustices. Johnny got his gun deals with other aspects which Trumbo revealed using symbolism. He goes into talking about abandonment, body self-image, human worth, institutionalization, loneliness, suffering, survival, time, trauma, war and medicine. Only after losing all your limbs, your nose, your sight, your ability to hear and speak your sense of smell, and taste does a person realize that he is truly alone.

Johnny stays in this state for many years but he refuses to give up, there will be no abandonment for him because he always has that glimmer of hope that one day he will find a way to communicate and get out of where ever he is. Johnnys life was filled with many typical American experiences before he reached his horrible fate. He was in many ways a typical American.The image of a typical American teen was set up for us a long time ago, and many people conform to fit this image. Its different for adults, therefore the typical American is whatever any American does that is classified as typical, whether its going to a baseball game, going to the movies with mom and pops, or going out for a cola with your girl. In those days everything everyone did was typical.

Everyones actions fit into the norm of American society. Johnny definitely fit the image of a typical American. He would go camping with his dad, and they would go fishing. When he grew older he would go camping with his friends, guys like Bill Harper and Glen Hogan. He went to the movies with his girl Kareen. One time he and Bill decided to go to the local whorehouse, Stumpy Telsas the called it.

They had heard all kinds of stories about it but now that they were 18 they decided to go check….. it out for themselves. Now does this mean that every typical American youth goes to whore houses and drinks and goes camping, of course notbut that was the thing to do back then. Does this mean that all American teens like to do is party hard and go to whorehouses? This does not say anything about America because you cant judge a country by some of its inhabitants. No everyone is the same, as times change so will peoples deeds.

People may not change from the inside but from the outside they will change and conform to fit whatever the normality might be. My view of a typical American now days fits the description of an early 20th century teen. It is someone who hangs out with his friends, goes to the movies, plays sports, dressed in the height of fashion and goes to parties. He/she eats hamburgers, hot dogs, drinks cola (and plays video games, and goes to the mall with his/her friends.) These are all things that all teens do, so would that classify everyone as typical? (Ill leave it upon you to answer that question.) American life is valuable, not to say that it is any more precious than anyone elses but that Americans have their freedom. This enables them to make decisions to protect themselves without the fear of being reprimanded.

Not everyone can make individual decisions without a cause-effect. However he believed that no one should die for their country or any lame reason their country gives them. Such as many mendacious reasons the American government gave to its people. “If they werent fighting for liberty, they were fighting for independence or democracy or freedom or decency or honor or their native land or something else that didnt mean anything.” Joe Bonham experiences much internal conflict within this story. He struggles for survival and staying sane, but his major conflict is with communicating with the outside world.

He hopes to one day be able to make his feelings known and have his thirst quenched by the answering of his questions. He yearns to break free from his hospital room and be around people, especially American people, who are from his homeland. Joe’s quest begins with a search for “time,” and once time has been found, he begins to “organize” his world. After many years of struggle to orient himself, he tries to reach out to others by “communicating” with them. His one dream is to be around people in the outside world, even though he knows he cant communicate with them, its just the feeling of being around people especially his people from his homeland that would serve as the best feeling in the world for him. He attempts to engage in his goal by tapping his head on his pillow.

Unfortunately, his initial attempts to move his head in Morse code are initially misconstrued as seizures, for which he receives sedatives. Eventually, a nurse new to his care realizes what he is trying to do and informs his doctors. What Joe wants most is to let the world know about the horrors of war. He assures his keepers that he could support himself in this venture if only they would let him out (people would be glad to pay to see a “freak” such as himself). The answer he receives in return, one, which had to be “literally” pounded into his forehead: “What you ask is against regulations.” That is when his last glimmer of hope vanished for ever, there was nothing for him to look forward to and keep him alive any longer, nothing to keep him from going mad, its was goneforever.

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Johnny Got His Gun. (2019, Jun 07). Retrieved from