Artboard Created with Sketch. Close Search Dialog
! Error Created with Sketch.

Johnny Got His Gun


Chapters v–vi

Summary Chapters v–vi

Jose's second problem arises when he finds a day job at a studio. He does not know how to get out of his night job at the bakery, as he is too grateful and indebted to Jody Simmons, the manager, for giving him the job in the first place. The men offer various ways of telling Jody Simmons off, but Jose cannot take their suggestions. Instead, Jose suffers between the two jobs and forty- five minutes worth of sleep.

The third night, Pinky Carson suggests that Jose drop some pies in front of Jody and get himself fired. Jose does this, but Jody forgives him. Pinky then suggests that Jose tip over a whole cart of pies the next night. The next night, the men come to work to find that Jody Simmons has received a mysterious bouquet of roses. When Jose tips over the cart, Jody yells at him and fires him. Jose offers to pay him for the pies, which he later does by mail, and then walks out of the bakery and is never seen again.

Joe awakens from his reverie and still thinks that Jose is with him. Slowly he regains full consciousness and remembers where he is and that he is alone.


It is not until Chapter v that Joe comes into full realization about the extent of his injuries. This slow process of realization—stretched out over five chapters—is a sort of reversal of the bildungsroman genre. The bildungsroman, or novel of formation, tracks the growth of the protagonist, as his character is formed under the impression of various trials that he must face as he moves from childhood to adulthood. In Johnny Got His Gun, we relive Johnny's childhood trials and formative moments only in flashback. The growth the novel tracks turns out to be the growth of Joe's realization of the extent of his bodily damage. The growth of Joe's consciousness in the novel is matched by the decomposition of his body, resulting in a sort of ironic version of the bildungsroman.

To make Joe's difficult progress even more painful, the first five chapters establish a pattern whereby Joe recovers his optimism after each revelation of a faculty he has lost. This motion works as triumph in reverse—another upending of the conventions of the bildungsroman. In Chapter v, we see that Joe overcomes the horror that he has lost his arms and his hearing and simply becomes grateful for the cessation of his pain. But each time Joe reaches emotional stability and peace of mind with his newly discovered state, a new injury is revealed. This pattern allows Johnny Got His Gun to have the dramatic pacing of a typical novel even though all the "action" takes place only within the head of the protagonist.

Chapter vi seems like an interlude, as Joe's memory of Jose spans the entire chapter and seems driven by the purpose to tell a story, rather than render a glimpse of an impressionistic memory. Indeed, the story of Jose serves as a sort of parable, highlighting the novel's concern with styles of social interaction and respect. Jose is a figure of courtesy and immense gratitude. His decisions not to marry the rich daughter for her money and not to quit the job that Jody Simmons has given him reflect Jose's adherence to social customs of courtesy that are distinct from laws or the codes of professionalism. Jose is also implicitly identified as peaceful, as he only reluctantly assents to do the "violence" of tipping the pies.