The Tragedy of War in Johnny Got His Gun
Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo evidently proved that war is a morbid tragedy that ultimately could have been avoided. War is destructive, in the sense that it can leave you as a human vegetable, or even end your life completely. After reading Johnny Got His Gun, the downfall of war became obvious to me; although, individuals tend to believe the latter. War has been a controversial topic with two opposing sides; however, war is becoming to be seen as a bigger negative rather than a positive. Originally, when I started reading this book I had the belief of war being beneficial to the country to get what is needed, as the book finished my belief was shifted. Several philosophers discovered war does not always have the outcome that is expected, it can cause destruction of a country, separation of families, or overall famine to the economy could occur. As Sun Tzu stated in The Art of War, “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.” War as stated by Tzu is a last resort, every precaution should be taken account of before destroying a relationship with an opposing country or state. A nation is hardly benefitted by an infinite war, as seen in Johnny Got His Gun. Death automatically grants a soldier the title of a ‘war hero.’ The soldier could have been the worst neighbor, a bully, a violent schoolmate, but once he goes to war and never comes home, all is forgotten. Dalton Trambo specifically states in Johnny Got His Gun, ‘What’s so noble about being dead?’ Memorials, monuments, ceremonies are given to those who lost their lives in the act of war; the wall built after the Vietnam War is an example of this. Every name on the black marble is a separate life lost, a person’s being is ignored because he blatantly gave his life to his ‘country.’ It is ultimately glamorized, death has so much power it can erase an entire negative history a person has.
A man doesn’t say I will starve myself to death to keep from starving, or that he’d spend all of his money to save money. Why should he be willing to die for the privilege of living?
Hickory dickory dock my daddy’s 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 off his legs and then watch him holler. Rockabye baby in the tree top don’t stop a bomb or you’ll probably flop. Now I lay me down to sleep my bombproof cellars good and deep but if I’m killed before I wake remember god it’s for your sake amen. War has been stated to be started by the rich and fought by the poor. The lower class are left with the burden to fight for their country without a guarantee of return, while the rich are giving commands and hoping the war is fought without actually putting any manpower. War Is also seen to provide a source of patriotism and togetherness as the entire nation gather to fight the war, nationalism is increased because the love for the country increases. “Put the guns into our hands and we will use them. Give us the slogans and we will turn them into reality. Sing the battle hymns and we will take them up where you left off,’ soldiers are the ones left to fight as others are providing the necessary tools of destruction. Soldiers were then nicknamed ‘G.I. Joes’ for their hard work, dolls and merchandise became a brand that many knew too well. The national anthem is sung wherever they go to remind them of the nation they belong to. All these components are products of war; it’s a feeling of submission for the soldiers to have to be forced to actively do something they do not want to do, but have to for the sake of their own well being. ‘Not one not ten not ten thousand not a million not ten millions not a hundred millions but a billion two billions of us all the people of the world we will have the slogans and we will have the hymns and we will have the guns and we will use them and we will live. Make no mistake of it we will live. We will be alive and we will walk and talk and eat and sing and laugh and feel and love and bear our children in tranquility and security in decency in peace. You plan the wars you masters of men plans the wars and point the way and we will point the gun.” The men stuck to fight this war are set up entirely, all they have to do is pull the trigger. They go through the motions as others give the orders to fight the war. It is a fallacy what war is made out to be, but lives are given at the cost of the wealthy.
PTSD went undiagnosed as people did not realize the disorder was the result of a gruesome war. Young men, barely reaching adulthood, were forced to see horrific scenes that a young mind could not handle to see. 18 year old boys were seen as men, who had no choice but to see their close friends die in battle, who had no choice but to see decaying corpses, or who had no choice but to see how deadly a weapon can revolutionize to. In Johnny Got a Gun, Dalton Trumbo wrote,’Hickory dickory dock my daddy’s 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 off his legs and then watch him holler. Rockabye baby in the treetop don’t stop a bomb or you’ll probably flop. Now I lay me down to sleep my bombproof cellars good and deep but if I’m killed before I wake remember god it’s for your sake amen.’ The shell shock experienced by the vivid memories our G.I. Joes are stuck reliving as they see gas become the worst weapon, fellow friends are being amputated in a less than a second as explosions take their limbs, or being kept awake from the constant thought of an unknown threat coming its way through the night. Paranoia became a constant feeling as young boys are visibly losing their sense of life.
In all, war is left to be fought by the least fortunate. The result of war is damage in families, the structure of a country, and the government; even though victory, the country still lost. Victory cannot be an excuse for the lives sacrificed for the “greater good.” In Johnny Got His Gone, it is seen regret is a constant feeling felt by the character throughout the entirety of the novel. Through pathos, the author allows for the audience to change their outlook on the destruction of battle.
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