Johnny Got His Gun
Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun tells the story of a young man, Joe Bonham, who has been left limbless, deaf, mute, and blind after suffering an injury in World War I. Throughout the novel, which covers four years of Joe's life in the hospital bed, he reminisces about his childhood and everything else leading up to the time of his injury. Even though he made the decision to serve in the army, he now denounces the war and the government's reasons for fighting. Left to do nothing but think, he spends his days contemplating why he ever left the comforts of his old life and agreed to fight. Although he has several reasons not to go to war, including the facts that wars are fought for vague and meaningless ideas and that nothing is bigger than life, he does decide that there are two just causes for fighting.
Joe's first and most poignant criticism of war is his belief that wars are fought for vague and meaningless ideas. Before entering World War I, Joe was encouraged to join the army to fight for ideas such as democracy, liberty, freedom, and womanhood. Although they seem to make sense and be worth fighting for, Joe stresses that they are all merely abstract words and ideals that can never truly be achieved. When discussing liberty, he emphasizes its vagueness by stating "But a guy says come on let's fight for liberty and he can't show you liberty. He can't prove the things he's talking about so how in the hell can he be telling you to fight for it?" (110). He describes freedom and democracy in similar ways, describing how they are all illusive terms, meaning different things with varied levels of significance for different people.
Joe goes on to mock the importance the government places on these terms when he says that if something was worth dying for, than that something would be important enough to be thinking about in their last living moments. He asks "So did all those kids die thinking of democracy and freedom and liberty and...
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