Unbroken

Summary

Chapters 30 – 31

Summary Chapters 30 – 31

Analysis

Hillenbrand’s narrative control is in full operation during Chapter Thirty, as she presents Louie at his absolute breaking point. With her imagery and detail, Hillenbrand allows the reader to imagine the physical and mental anguish Louie faces. Just as Louie seems he could not possibly endure one additional straw on his back, Hillenbrand shifts our focus to another narrative point of view.

Hillenbrand is a masterful storyteller who captures the suspense and drama of the war’s conclusion through multiple lenses. She shifts narration to other points of view, including that of the crew of the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb and that of a POW on the far side of Hiroshima who saw the atomic cloud go three miles into the air. While the reader knows these historical events, Hillenbrand’s narrative keeps the story’s outcome a surprise, just as it was for everyone on the ground, Louie included. Louie and others still do not know what is happening, and if they will survive. The book offers a way for people to understand the context and experience of the historic bombing of Hiroshima, one of history’s most momentous events.

Chapter Thirty presents two especially powerful images, oddly similar even as they are dissonant in magnitude and significance. On a small scale, we have the image of Louie holding the bar over his head. This is an image of Louie as Superman. The title of Louie’s first plane offers a double reading of that word, of course. The image is the vertical column of a man, topped by a horizontal bar. This image roughly parallels in shape the mushroom cloud that rises over Hiroshima and that changes the world forever. As the war draws to an end, Louie’s personal narrative is tied to the infamous bombs dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Chapter Thirty-One confirms that we have reached the climax of the story and are starting to move into the final scenes of the story, or falling action. The climax is marked by two things: Louie enduring the physical task the Bird gave him of holding the bar above his head, and he dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima. Since the reader learns about the bomb before the men do, they also experience a climactic moment when they read the Morse code message from the plane, signaling that the war is over. Due to her storytelling techniques, the reader too feels the absolute relief of the war’s end. The American plane brings not only confirmation of the war’s end, but also information and hope. At long last, the ordeal of this war is for these men coming to an end. The celebration of this moment is a celebration of life, of survival, of a tomorrow that the men did not know would come.

Hillenbrand presents a vivid cinematic moment of the men receiving the news about the end of the war, and of the celebration that follows. This is a cathartic moment, the end to a long, tense narrative. With the main conflict solved, Hillenbrand maintains some dramatic tension in the story. Importantly, the villainous Bird has disappeared. Louie and the reader still have reason to feel conflict with the Bird, and the story will not feel resolved until this problem is solved in some way.