Johnny Got His Gun Literary Analysis

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Donald Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun examines the effects of war, particularly those of World War I. Through descriptions of protagonist Joe Bonham's horrific physical and mental damage, Trumbo convinces his readers that the benefits of war never outweigh its negative impacts. Thus, his novel is an anti-war book. But it is not a statement denouncing all wars; Trumbo himself declares that for each of the major wars throughout the 20th century, Johnny has “a different meaning” (xxviii). Blind, deaf, dumb, and a quadruple amputee, protagonist Joe Bonham is the horrors of war incarnate. Through Joe’s thoughts during the five years he is in hospital, Trumbo examines and confronts his reader with the irreparable physical and mental effects of war. The reality of war is not romantic “locomotives…draped…show more content…
For example, Joe’s gruesome injuries and depressed mental state evoke pity both in the reader and other characters. He can tell that “through the tenderness of her touch," his nurse "[feels] pity” for him (173). Trumbo also reiterates the “darkness desertion loneliness silence...unending horror” of Joe’s mental prison to elicit empathy. Ethos is woven throughout Joe’s passionate interior monologues to persuade the reader how unjust war is. Young men must fight although they have "no more to do with Germany or England or France...than [they have] to do with the man in the moon" (25). Joe advises young men and the reader to “Pay no attention when they tap you on the shoulder and say come along we’ve got to fight for liberty” (123) because “there’s no word worth your life” (122) - not “independence or democracy or freedom or decency or honor or…native land” (116). Trumbo’s ethos is clear. Through Joe, he implores the reader to do what is right - to take action, protest war, prevent senseless killing of young men in the name of words with no palpable

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