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Transcript of Unbroken-Laura Hillenbrand
Major Events &
As a biographer, Laura Hillenbrand was concerned with re-constructing Louie Zamperini's story with utmost correspondence to the facts, rather than with putting the readers in the Louie's shoes. She maintains a clear, third person voice that does not focus on reliving Louie's emotional turmoils or spiritual crisis. Her purpose is to create a historically accurate account of Louie Zamperini's experiences instead of a tale to entertain.
Because the author used a objective third person voice, the story was not as interesting as I believe it could have been. There were a lot of places in the story where I felt that the main character's emotions were too lightly dismissed. If the author had expanded on them a bit, she could have constructed some impressive themes. Especially important to me was the main character's struggle to maintain dignity. Hillenbrand gave analysis of this, but she never got inside Louie's head. However, I am aware that the author did this deliberately to avoid being assuming and rude to Louie Zamperini.
Nevertheless, Hillenbrand's rhetoric was vivid and full of imagery and the amount of detail she had dug up for this book is extremely commendable. She has a good story to tell and she tells it accurately.
An Extraordinary True Story of Courage and Survival
Air battle above Nauru
Billy Graham's Sermon
Crash of the Green Hornet
Transfer to Omori: The Bird
Louie Zamperini was a mess, an uncontrollable and rebellious spirit preoccupied with breaking every boundary and crossing every line, before his brother introduced him to running. He transformed from the neighborhood ruffian to the town hero, attending the Berlin Olympics as the youngest miler and setting the NACC record for 15 years. Running saved Louie and gave him "realization for who he was" (pg.18). He developed a strong character that will take him through all of the future hardships he would face. Shortly after the Berlin Olympics was the outbreak of World War II.
Louie enlisted in the U.S. air corps shortly after he attended college. He became best friends with the pilot of their crew, Philips, a composed, kind, and quiet man. When their division was attacked by a horde of Japanese bombers, "Zeros", Louie and Philips experienced their first close call to death. One of their crew, Harry Brooks, died in combat. This was Louie's first true exposure to the mercilessness of war.
During a rescue mission, Louie's plane malfunctioned and crashed over the pacific. Only Louie, Philips, and another member of their crew, Mac, survived, stuck on two inflated rafts and two insufficient substance packs. Mac was severely traumatized and soon wasted away, but Louie and Philips persisted, surviving on rainwater and an occasional albatross or small fish. Losing the hopeless war against nature, Louie pledged that he will forever serve God if he saves him and Philip. They did survive, hitting an island of Japanese occupation on their 47th day, but were captured as prisoners of war (POW).
After their experience of forced oppression and dehumanizing treatment in Ofuna, an interrogation camp, Louie and Phil were sent to different POW camps. Louie arrived in Omori, where even more escalated torments awaited him in the form of a Japanese Corporal nicknamed "The Bird". A paranoid and vicious man ruled by a consuming fear of humiliation and many jealousies, the Bird found the existence of Louie, the legendary miler, intolerable. He devoted himself to breaking Louie, calling him his "Number one prisoner". The Bird's torments diminished Louie even more than his 47 days on the Pacific because they plundered not only his physical body, but also what had sustained Louie's spiritual self. Dignity was stripped from the men in prison camp. They felt like they were "Literally becoming lesser human beings" (pg. 183). Louie was on the brink of death when two atomic bombs ended the war and he was, finally, able to go home.
Even after his repatriation, Louie could not shake himself free of the war. To escape his dark memories, he resorted to alcohol and developed sever drinking problems. The Bird stalked him in his dreams and Louie became obsessed with the thought of returning to Japan to murder the Bird in revenge for the damage he had done to him. He woke up one night to find himself strangling his pregnant wife, thinking she was the Bird. Having had enough, his wife decided to file for a divorce, but, just before everything fell apart, she came to him saying that she had experienced a spiritual awakening and decided against the divorce. She persuaded Louie to attend Billy Graham's sermon, which became a huge turning point in Louie Zamperini's life. Listening to a story of Jesus's clemency, he remembered the promise he made to God in the middle of the Pacific: he was going to serve him forever. He found a wave of forgiveness for his old tormentors and was redeemed. "He was not the worthless, broken, foresaken man that Bird had striven to make of him. In a single moment, his rage, his fear, his humiliation and helplessness had fallen away." (pg. 376)
Throughout starvation, thirst, disease, humiliation, violence, and abuse, Louie has been pushed to the point of death again and again, yet each time he persevered and he returned. He came back "Unbroken".
Style and Tone
The author writes the story from the point of view of a researcher. She refers to events in the future, facts, and knowledge that no character could have known in the setting of the story. Integrated into the text are real quotes said or written by the people she writes about, including the main character. She uses a very objective voice, providing frequent analysis of different people's mindset and constantly refering to statistics to prove her point. The book is also composed of a lot of short anecdotes that have little or no relation to the main plot. They are used to either entertain the reader or to give insight to a particular situation. Because the book does not center on the perspective of any single character, it reads more like a news article than a narrative.
- "He had thought it as he had considered the pleasing geometry of the sharks, their gradation of color, their slide through the sea." (pg. 166)
The author repeats the word "their" at the start of each apposition to quicken the pace of sentence and to build the descriptions on top of each other, creating a climax that reflects the main character's admiration.
- "This self-respect and sense of self-worth...lies at the heart of humanness; to be deprived of it is to be cleaved from, and cast below, mankind.
The parallel structure "to be...to be" equates syntactically "self-respect and sense of self-worth" to being "cleaved from, and cast below, mankind", strengthening the author's assertion.
- "Though the captives' resistance was dangerous, through such acts, dignity was preserved, and through dignity, life itself."
The "through...through" repetition shows a cause and affect relationship. It also puts dignity and life in positions of increasing importance and thereby creating a climax.
- "During the war, the Bird had been unwilling to let go of Louie; after the war, Louie was unable to let go of the Bird." (Chiasmus/ Antithesis)
The author uses almost the same words but reverses the grammatical positions of "Louie" and the "Bird". This conveys effectively the irony of the situation and makes the contrast clear.
- "On the men drifted."
The inverted word structure puts emphasis on the "on", conveying a sense of the pass of continuous, unchanging time.
- "Beneath the hush was a humming underground of defiance."
Deliberately placing "defiance" in the emphatic position, the author contrasts it to the outer layer of obedient hush.
- "Some had elevated status...Others he resented because they wouldn't crawl before him."
Instead of "he resented others" the author chooses to say "others he resented". Placing "others" at the start of the sentence, she corresponds the word to "some", creating parallelism between the two sentences.
-"It was the smell of land. It flirted with them all night, growing stronger."
The personification of the smell of land in this sentence creates vivid imagery. It also portrays how enraptured the men were at the discovery of land after almost two months stranded on a raft.
The doldrums are an area that
hovers around the equator where there is a complete pause in air and water. The water is so still that it reflects the sky in perfect clarity. The air is so silent that it brings the sound of a jumping fish miles away. Phil and Louie had came across this amazing trick of nature when their were floating aimlessly in the pacific. Reverent, both men forgot about pain and forgot about impending death. It was an "experience of transcendence". It was one of the moments in Louie's life that he felt the presence of a creator.
Later on in the story, after Louie was repatriated, he recalled the experience again during Graham's sermon. The doldrums are a symbol of religious faith and the tranquility it brings.
Death of Gaga
Gaga was a duck at the Ofuna interrogation camp (where Louie and Phil had been taken to right after they landed). The prisoners at Ofuna felt a special affection towards this little bird because its cheerfulness was a meager form of distraction from the depressing atmosphere of the camp. But the guards hated the duck, probably simply because the prisoners liked it, and in the days of Ofuna's decline, their irritation of it spiked. Many guards started to abuse it ritually. One day, a guard the prisoners named "shithead", in full view of everyone, took off his pants and "violated the duck". The duck died.
The author deliberately includes this anecdote to symbolize how the cruelty of the Japanese guards dehumanized not only the prisoners, but also themselves. As they stripped their captives of their dignity, they are losing theirs also.
After Louie returned to America, his biggest tormenter during the war, the Bird, became more than just a mortal being. He was everywhere and affected everything Louie did. He was the tangible form of all of the adversities Louie had faced since his plane crashed. To Louie he was the symbol of the torments of war and Louie's own trauma. By giving his dark memories a concrete form, Louie gave himself something real enough to fight against. This was where he got the idea that he could save himself by murdering the Bird.