Chapters vii and viii mark Joe's emergence from his dream world of the past. Much time has passed, and Joe seems to have spent it either unconsciously daydreaming or simply unconscious. He comes conscious again and begins to think through his situation, first thinking about the fate that brought him to his current state, then thinking about the latest threats to his sanity.

Trumbo wrote much of Johnny Got His Gun as stream of consciousness. Stream of consciousness has been used as a literary technique to emphasize the origin of a narrative from inside the mind of a single character, rather than from an objective, distanced, third party. This form is obviously appropriate to Johnny Got His Gun, a novel in which the entire narrative takes place within Joe's head. The lack of some punctuation in stream of consciousness narratives accentuates the rapidity of the thoughts and the means by which they flow into one another. It also gives a sense of real time—as though Joe is having the thoughts at the same speed at which we read them. The pacing of Johnny Got His Gun is thus particularly interesting, as parts of the chapters happen in real time, yet often the novel conveys the sense that time has passed between chapters—as with the healing of Joe's stumps between Chapters vi and vii. Later, in Book II, years pass between some chapters.

Chapter vii is the first chapter that makes multiple references to the war, as Joe thinks back over horror stories he has heard about war survivors and recounts a scene from his own time at war. The images that Joe relates are obliquely relevant to the war only. He does not explicitly relate facts about his time there—where he was stationed, who he was stationed with—nor does he ever in the course of the novel. The purpose of the war stories here is to create a sufficiently grotesque context within which Joe can begin to understand the logic of his current senseless, limbless state.

The nightmare of the rat also relates back to Joe's war experience. The rat stands as symbol of the mentality of war. Joe's thought during the war—that the rat is everyone's true enemy—has to do with who profits from warfare. From Joe's point of view, neither the Americans nor the Germans who are actually in battle will profit from the war; in fact, they will lose much, like the Prussian soldier whom Joe finds dead. The rat is the figure that profits from the death and injury of war, as it feeds itself off of the dying flesh of others. The rat, therefore, can be seen as a symbol of those people who are not fighting the war, but who stand to profit from it—or those people who profit more generally from the continuation of a mentality of warfare rather than peace.