Joe muses that the army recruiters, unable to get people to sign up with vague talk about liberty, resorted to using the persuasion that women were endangered, being raped by the enemy. Joe does not consider this an "honest deal" in the end—one's life bargained for something better in return. Joe is even skeptical of the idealist stance—that ideals are worth fighting for, worth losing one's life for.

Joe is skeptical of ideals because they are not concrete and because dead men cannot talk and therefore confirm that an ideal truly was worth dying for. Joe pictures the millions of men who went out and died for democracy—right before their deaths, they were not thinking of democracy, but of their friends, their families, their wish to live. Joe knows this with conviction because he himself is "the nearest thing to a dead man on earth." He would trade democracy, honor, independence, freedom, and decency for his life back, because "there's nothing noble about dying." Joe warns an imaginary other not to go to war for the words of others, because death is painful and grotesque and because there is nothing cowardly about wanting to live.


Chapters ix and x mark the end of Book I as well as the first climax of the novel. It is in this section, entitled "The Dead," that Joe manages to triumph over his encroaching insanity and develop convictions about his bodily condition and the more general practice of war. By the end of Chapter x it becomes clear to Joe that he has a role to play as the world's first living dead man. He alone exists near to death, yet is alive enough to realize that giving up one's life is not worth anything, including abstract ideals. This message and the convictions behind it give Joe a sense of purpose that he has lacked.

Chapter ix consists of one of Joe's last dream remembrances, this one of his last camping trip with his father. Like some of the other dream memories, this one is dominated by a sense of loss—Joe loses his father's fishing rod, but he also loses the childhood rapport he and his father shared. But this dream memory also involves the beginnings of the political convictions Joe displays in Chapter x. The sections of Chapter ix that explain Joe's family's financial status display dissatisfaction with the capitalist system and a nostalgia for a more pastoral, subsistence farming system. Under a system of subsistence pastoralism, Joe's father would be a success, as he grows enough food for his family to eat quite well. Joe's father is only a failure under the capitalist system that requires men to make surplus capital to purchase goods. Joe's nostalgia for pastoralism also involves a preference for local identification—first with family, then possibly with community—over a national identity. This tendency then plays into Joe's feelings about war voiced in Chapter x.

Joe's convictions about war in Chapter x center around a deep skepticism regarding the motives of the undefined "they"—those who organized and called for the war, yet did not fight in it. Joe's skepticism extends to language as well. He distrusts words without concrete referents, such as "house." These abstract words can convey different meanings, and they ultimately offer inadequate substance when placed on the other end of a bargain with one's life. Thence comes Joe's sense of having been cheated and manipulated. The form of Chapter x works in some of the same ways that a persuasive piece of writing or a speech would. Joe repeats many of his phrases for emphasis, even repeating words such as "democracy" and "liberty" so often as to sap them of all meaning—they simply become repetitive sounds. Joe also speaks periodically to a second person—imaginatively, another man being talked into going to war. But Joe also appears to address us here; the chapter works didactically, with the aim to teach.