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Johnny Got His Gun
Author Dalton Trumbo
Type of work Novel
Genre Antiwar novel; didactic novel
Time and place written 1938; California
Date of first publication 1939
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
Ace your assignments with our guide to Johnny Got His Gun!