Family Relationship in Johnny Got His Gun Novel
It seems that only during our most intimate circumstances do we find ourselves truly aware of the raw nature behind our most personal relationships. Dalton Trumbo, in an excerpt from his novel, Johnny Got His Gun, explores this intriguing aspect of reality through narration of a pivotal event in the relationship between a father and son. Trumbo employs various techniques in his narration to characterize the elusive nature inside the relationship between the young man and his father. Through very precise narration – leaving no minute detail left to accident or without meaningful intention – Trumbo crafts a scene that reveals in details that are subtle yet impactful in their presence a defining experience shared between the father and his son.
The excerpt commences with a description of a tent in a suggestedly remote and naturally majestic, rural setting. The narrator makes no mention of either two primary characters at first, crafting his narration to focus intently upon creating a vivid and sensory setting for the reader, a structural strategy implemented to accentuated the thematic elements of the piece on they make themselves known. The latter half of the paragraph introduces the characters in a subtle way that suggests the two as naturally occurring components of the surrounding location, an effect which makes the momentous nature of the son’s action in adding a foreign component to his and his father’s long-standing and even sacred-seeming tradition. The following paragraph extends the previously established effect by beginning from the start with a reference to just how long the tradition has remained instated: nearly a decade. Simultaneously, in the same sentence used to note the tradition’s length, the narrative tone makes a marring transition, stating in a single breath, “Now he was fifteen and Bill Harper was…com(ing) tomorrow.” The choice to blend the two statements without separation – even by orthodox punctuation – is subtle, yet profound in effect by rhetorically encompassing the seemingly disjointed reality by which the two events are coinciding. There is a stark contrast between the reality that has remained present in the lives of the son and father and the new one that comes into existence through the introduction of the element involving the son’s friend. That contrast marks the separating point between the past and the present, the accepted way of life and the apprehensive future, and represents the turning point which this entire piece is meant to encompass. From that point, the narration remains more fixed through the son’s perspective, as his inward conflict and self-questioning are introduced to the reader, a transition made to convey the rest of the occurrences with thematic clarity, with the setting already created and established.
The latter portion of the excerpt employs the instated setting and thematic perspective to clearly convey the nature of the familial relationship more closely. While the first two paragraphs reveal, on some level, a few aspects of their bond – such as their shared devotion to their tradition and their mutual affinity for nature, alongside some degree of emotional separation, made clear by noting the two’s separate “preferred company” – they function primarily to pave the way for the boy’s thoughts, communicated through omniscient narration to construct the message. Despite containing dialogue – more specifically, remembrance of that conversation – the narration holds steady a pensive and reflective quality, a trait created to characterize the relationship as developing yet tender. The narrative continues through the perspective of the son, and describes intimate details, such as the sacredness of the father’s fishing rod, which he is now willing to (in an implicitly symbolic manner) lend to the very friend who is shaking the foundation of their tradition, and the insinuated, subtle apprehension – apprehension suggestive that both boy and father are aware of the new development of their relationship – in the dialogue, to create clear portrayals of the relationship between father and son; simultaneously just as transitional and uncertain, as treasured, intimate, and quietly magnificent. The recalled conversation shares qualities with the narrative style itself in that it is within the unstated implications – like the telling minutia amidst the narrative description – behind the words of the father and son that reveal their mutual yet hidden awareness of the quietly enormous nature of the unfolding trip.
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