February 17th, 2015

planet

Johnny Got His Gun - Dalton Trumbo

I was out at my little free library and a nice copy of Johnny Got His Gun was there, I'd never read it before but I heard it was kind of the basis for that Metallica song about the soldier with no arms, legs, or face. And the intro said it had been a bestseller for decades, especially among troops, so maybe it would be a quick easy read, I thought.

it was a quick read. I was sucked in and it absorbed my weekend and totally messed with me.

The whole thing is this poetic stream of consciousness told from the point of view of the soldier in the hospital. he flashes back to his early life, and thinks of ways to spend time trapped in his prison of a body... how to tell time, how to realize his injuries, and years later how to communicate.

and he thinks about war, and ponders being the only person who can "speak for the dead" because he is sort of dead, in that he's lost all relationships, contact with the outside world, arms and legs and senses, but he's kept alive by tubes so his brain can still think like a living person. and that's when he thinks about war, and goes on and on evaluating all the reasons that people say they fight war. honor, pride, "protecting democracy", freedom... especially about freedom. what's the point of throwing your own life away for that? there is no freedom or democracy for the dead.

A man doesn't say I will starve myself to death to keep from starving, or that he'd spend all of his money to save money. Why should he be willing to die for the privilege of living?


this is a classic American novel that the author says took on new meanings in every war. It was written right after WWI, and released at the beginning of WWII. Then there was Korea, it was a huge bestseller during Vietnam, and reading it I thought of the iraq war and all the amputees. This poor author, I thought, telling this story for why we shouldn't have wars, then seeing it over and over and over again.