Chapters 36 – 37

Summary Chapters 36 – 37

The chapter ends with the Bird’s mother spotting her son in Tokyo one evening in late 1948. She had always known he was still alive.


In Chapter Thirty-Six, Hillenbrand moves into reporting mode and focuses sharp attention on gathering factual information about where the Bird went after disappearing from the Naoetsu POW camp. This chapter shifts entirely away from Louie in order to focus on his tormentor, who now lives a life far different from the life he led in the camps. Hillenbrand’s characterization of the Bird is of a simple man who is haunted by his past but who seems intent on escaping capture. The evil abuser is not clearly evident in this characterization. This simple man is a deflated version of the abuser who torments Louie’s dreams and whom Louie seems intent to kill. This chapter underscores the need for Louie to solve his problem at home, without returning to Japan. The fact that the Bird escapes detectives presents a likelihood that Louie would not be able to find him if he were to try. The portrait of the Bird presented in this chapter also suggests that he is not necessarily worthy of Louie’s wrath. His life is focused mainly on survival and escape. While he does not appear to suffer terribly, the emptiness of his life is somewhat pathetic.

In some ways, Louie is still at war. His post-war life is not a complete escape. In Chapter Thirty-Seven, Hillenbrand repeats a quote she had included previously in the book from Auschwitz survivor Jean Amery. Amery says that resentment “nails every one of us onto the cross of his ruined past.” The force of this quote coming from the survivor of a very different war camp in Germany underscores the fact that Louie will not be healed by revenge, even as he can see no other solution for his problems. Louie is obviously in need of healing, but he continues to deepen his problems through his use of alcohol and through the rage that runs through him like an electric current. While consumed by revenge, Louie imperils his life and those of his family members. While drunk, he gets in brawls and drives his car recklessly. Louie’s life appears to be ready to fall completely apart. He former jovial personality is hardly seen. He has now lost his wife and daughter. It seems as if war could still make him a casualty.

Even though he does not yet see things this way, there seems to be a force that keeps Louie alive, almost as if there is an angel on his side. This force prevents him from dying and also from trying to exact his revenge on the Bird. Every time Louie gets close to gathering enough information to go to Japan, he loses the money. This defeat is actually a saving grace for Louie.