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Johnny Got His Gun

Dalton Trumbo

Chapters xi–xii

Chapters ix–x

Chapters xi–xii, page 2

page 1 of 2

Chapter xi

Joe exercises his brain with multiplication series, grammatical cases, and as much as he can remember of the narratives of Dickens's David Copperfield and A Christmas Carol and Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans and other Leatherstocking Tales. Joe then tries to remember "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Tennyson and "When the Frost is on the Pumpkin" by Riley. Joe runs through the planets, the Ten Commandments, and assorted psalms. Joe regrets how little he memorized of all of these things because now he cannot use them to entertain himself for long stretches of time.

Joe decides to start at the beginning with an idea and somehow teach himself something new. He decides to start with an idea that relates to telling time. He realizes he cannot calculate the time between the day in September 1918 when he was hit with a shell and the day he awoke and discovered he was deaf. But the idea of counting time has been in his head for a while. Joe's first thought is to track the seconds, minutes, and hours between each nurse's visit until he gets to twenty-four hours, so he would know what schedule the nurses kept. But Joe cannot concentrate long enough to count the seconds correctly. He realizes that this method is too complicated, so he decides to focus on simpler schedules like how often his bowel movements and bed changes occur in nurse's visits.

Eventually, Joe realizes that he can sense the outside world with his skin and decides that he should attempt to feel the sunrise. He reasons that the nurse probably bathes him in the mornings, as nurses do their heavy work in the morning. He calculates that the nurse probably visits him roughly every two hours, so he decides to count up to her last visit before dawn and then prepare himself to feel the change in temperature that accompanies sunrise. Joe executes his plan and triumphantly feels the warmth on his neck. Joe feels a part of the world, as dawn is happening to many others at the same time. Joe imagines himself watching dawn move over his old town and the mountains of Colorado. He feels grateful for the gift of time.

Chapter xii

Joe celebrates his New Year's Eve exactly one year after he manages to keep time. He remembers various New Year's images from his life in Colorado and Los Angeles. Keeping time has become easier for Joe as he has became accustomed to the nurses' schedules and has learned to tell the nurses apart from the diffrent vibrations they make. Joe likes his regular nurse—the day nurse—and guesses that she is middle-aged, heavier, and used to her work, as she does it briskly. Joe can tell when a new nurse comes on duty because he can feel her take off his sheet, look at him for the first time, and then cry or even leave the room to be sick. All these observations help Joe organize his new universe. Now that he can keep time, he makes sure to imagine himself taking a walk in the woods outside Paris on every Sunday afternoon.

Joe thinks of Kareen, as he left her when she was nineteen. Thinking of her is the only time he becomes homesick and wishes he were in an American hospital. Joe knows that he cannot even be identified as an American. Joe decides that he is probably among Englishmen, as he was stationed next to a regiment of "Limeys" when he was hit.

Joe remembers the strangeness of the Englishmen, especially one Scottish man who refused to fight the Germans once he learned that there were Bavarians fighting with them (Scotland had a connection to Bavaria through Crown Prince Rupert of the Stuart line). To Joe's surprise, the Englishmen did not shoot the Scotchman; instead, they merely transferred him to another location where there were no Bavarians fighting.

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