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Johnny Got His Gun

Dalton Trumbo

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full title ·  Johnny Got His Gun

author · Dalton Trumbo

type of work · Novel

genre · Antiwar novel; didactic novel

language · English

time and place written · 1938; California

date of first publication · 1939

publisher · Lippincott

narrator · The narrative is told by Joe Bonham; the narrative slips back and forth from third person to first person. The narrative consists only of Joe's thoughts, memories, and observations.

point of view · The narrative is told entirely from the point of view of Joe Bonham.

tone · Varies from nostalgic (when Joe thinks of his past) to bitter (when Joe thinks of his current state and how he arrived there)

tense · Present tense, except for the flashbacks of Joe's childhood, which are told in past tense

setting (time) · Early to mid-1920s

setting (place) · A hospital bed

protagonist · Joe Bonham

major conflict · Joe struggles to come to terms with the war injury that has left him limbless and faceless. He also tries to communicate with the outside world and asks to be displayed as an example of the terrible results war can have.

rising action · Joe's gradual discovery that he is limbless and faceless; Joe's unsuccessful attempts to communicate with his day nurse in Morse code

climax · Book I: Joe solidification of his political views on war; Book II: the new nurse's realization that Joe is attempting to communicate

falling action · The Morse code man's reply that Joe's wish to be shown to the outside world is "against regulations"; Joe's sedation; Joe's realization that they will never let him out because he is living proof of the horrors of war that they do not want to be made public

themes · The oppression of the working class; the unequal bargain of war; the horrific consequences of modern warfare; nostalgia for pastoralism

motifs · Patriotic songs; memories of loss; rebirth from death

symbols · Joe's body; the rat; Joe's father's garden

foreshadowing · Joe's wonder whether there is more wrong with his body than he has suspected; Kareen and Joe's goodbye, as told in his flashback

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