Jun 11

Johnny Got His Gun is an eerie anti-war novel written in 1938 by American novelist and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. The book is a dark tale of the effects of war, patriotism, and individual liberty.

It took me a while to realize that Joe (the main character) was a complete vegetable, meaning no arms, legs, and other basic human functions. I couldn’t even begin to imagine on what life would be like in these types of circumstances, but the colorful details that Trumbo paints for the readers made me quiver in my bed. The eerie theme in this book sneaked up on me, filling me with grim despair and desolation. Everything that is beautiful on this planet shrunk into insignificance as I read this poor man’s reactions as he slowly begins to unfold what has happened to him.

Johnny Got His Gun is an anti-war novel written in 1938 (published 1939) by American novelist and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo

Johnny Got His Gun is an anti-war novel written in 1938 (published 1939) by American novelist and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo

This book makes bold anti-war statements, but besides that, I really was displeased to see what type of world, a person could live in, with OUT social interactions. Despite the fact he couldn’t see, hear, move, etc… He was completely alone with his thoughts. At such a young age (20), I could not imagine being completely isolated from social interactions.

It seemed to me that most of what kept his sanity was the vivid memories he had involving people and past interactions he has had in his life. Joe showed extreme relieve when he was touched and soothed by the nurse, but later wondered if it was as figment of his imagination. He couldn’t tell dreaming from thinking and was on a complete merry-go-round, but the mere thought of ‘someone’ else comforted him.

Another astounding point in the book was when Joe was physically leaving for war. As the train was being boarded, I simply thought it was brilliant how the National Anthem was running parallel with Joe saying ‘goodbye’ to his life. The national anthem bleeds from patriotism, and a good product of this would be war. Going to war means a possibility of getting hurt, dying, and suffering from traumatizing events, so I think the national anthem should include such elements, much like how Trumbo intertwined the two.

One minute Joe had Kareen in his arms, the next he realized he had no arms… This is a great portrayal of social contingencies, meaning there can always be surprises that can emerge events that no one expects. Trumbo captured this perfectly by keeping two sides of a story continuous in the book. After reading ten pages of pure internal insanity and distress caused by a grenade in war, there were ten pages about how he fell in love with a woman shortly before he had to go to war, or a father-son fishing trip, or the tasty bread that his mother used to make. Understanding the type of life that Joe had, and could have had, greatly showed the impact of war on individuals and to society.

Whose liberty are we fighting for in war? What types of powers are involved in deciding for a draft? What type of conceptualization errors are made and when in the decision-making process for war? Is Liberty, Freedom, and the pursuit of happiness an institutionalized American ideal? There is no proper justification, ever, to send men out and die for a ‘country’. We must look at the errors on why the world, as a whole, can not cooperate. We must look at the social influences and causes to the idea of war and why we feel it is a proper solution.

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