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Main page » Fiction literature » JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN



Joe Bonham, a young soldier serving in World War I, awakens in a hospital bed after being caught in the blast of an exploding artillery shell. He gradually realizes that he has lost his arms, legs, and face, but that his mind functions perfectly, leaving him a prisoner in his own body. He tries to die by suffocating himself but he has been given a tracheotomy, which he cannot remove or control. He successfully attempts to communicate with his doctors by banging his head on his pillow in Morse code. His wish is that he may be put in a glass box and tour the country, to show people the true horrors of war. His wish is never granted, however, and it is implied that he will live the rest of his natural life in this condition.

As he drifts between reality and fantasy, he remembers his old life with his family and girlfriend, and reflects upon the myths and realities of war. He also forms a bond, of sorts, with a young nurse who senses his plight.

  The book has a weird political history. Written in 1938 when pacifism was anathema to the American left and most of the center, it went to the printers in the spring of 1939 and was published on September third—ten days after the Nazi-Soviet pact, two days after the start of World War II.



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