Johnny Got His Gun
War in its self is a tragedy. Experiencing the tragedies of war has a life long impact on ones life. In the novel ” Johnny got His Gun” by Dalton Trumbo, Joe Bonham is a victim of war and he is forever changed physicaly, mentally and spiritualy. Through Joe it is evident that the price we pay for war is much to high.
All people in life have some sort of basic function. Weather it be a parapaliegic who lives alone, goes to work, has some sort of social life , and is a member of a wheelchair basket ball team or a quadrapaliegic who is incapable of doing much but still communicate with friends and family members. Joe is in a terribly worse situation then any of them. Joe spends his days in a hospital bed. He is incapable of any sort of fuction other than moving his head up and down. He can not speak nor can he eat for he has no mouth nor a face. He must be assisted for thing’s that a 3 year old child could probably do on their own like changing close or going to the washroom. This predicament, which Joe finds himself in, causes Joe tremendous mental anguish. “Please I can’t. Please no. Somebody come. Help me. I can’t lie here forever like this until maybe years from now I die. 1 can’t. Nobody can. It isn’t possible.” (Trumbo 3.64)
To try to imagine the mental stress which Joe suffers from is unconceivable to any human being. Joe can not distinguish his memories from his consciencnouss nor can he judge if he is awake or asleep. Joe can not communicate with his keepers which is the worst of all his folies “He kept tapping. He kept on now for another reason aside from the simple desire to speak which had started him out. He kept on tapping because he didn’t dare stop he didn’t dare think. He didn’t have the courage to ask himself so simple a question as how long will it be before the nurse understands what I’m doing.”(Trumbo 15.180) this causes Joe the most anguish because all he wants now, in his condition, is to go into the world and show everyone the horrors of war. Joe imagines himself in a schoolhouse recitng this nursery rhyme: “Hickory *censored*ory dock my daddy’ nuts from shell shock. Humpty dumpty thought he was wise till gas came along and burned out his eyes. A dillar a dollar a ten o’clock scholar blow of his legs and then watch him holler. Rocka-bye baby on the tree top don’t stop a bomb or you’ll probably flop. Now I lay me down to sleep my bomb proof cellars good and deep but if I die before I wake remember God it’s for your sake.”(Trumbo 19.228-229) The final chapter is full of sarcastic passages such as this which clearly indicates the deterioration of Joe’s mind which leads to his dementia. Joe has nothing left to look forward to and as most people do when they are hopless, he turns to God.
Before that fate full day, when a German shell fell from the heavens and landed in close proximity to Joe causing his partial destruction, Joe was not a religous man. Like any other human being Joe needed something to hold on to. At first he used his memories but in time he ran out of them for you see Joe is just a young a man with little wordly experience. With his happy memories depleted Joe is left with no choice but to communicate with the spiritual world- the world in his head- The only place where he can talk to anyone. He saw himself playing cards with dead soldiers whom he did not know and Christ was playing with them”Christ came right into the railway station and sat down with them.” This is a sign of Joe’s spirituality and his new found belief in Christianity.
War is not a game to be played by childre. It is not a gimmick to be used by a news station to gain higher ratings or sell more papers. It is a tragedy. What is it that causes people to want to kill one and other? Perhaps there is no anwser. Perhaps we will never know, but we will know the saddness that acompanies it.