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114 of 122 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One soldier's struggle
"Johnny Got His Gun," by Dalton Trumbo, is a powerful novel. The Bantam paperback includes a fascinating introduction by Trumbo, written in 1959 with a 1970 addendum. The intro notes that the novel itself was written in 1938 and published just after the start of World War II. An "About the Author" page at the book's beginning notes that the Colorado-born Trumbo was one...
Published on December 31, 2004 by Michael J. Mazza

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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought- Provoking, But Not Without Its Problems
Trumbo makes some powerful points in this book, and raises some great questions; are those who are killed in war proud to have died for their country? Since the dead don't talk, there is no way of knowing. Through the character of Joe Bonham, he allows us to more closely consider this question. Bonham has lost his capacity to "live" in any real sense of the...
Published on February 5, 2004 by Mr. Tickle Snort


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41 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best anti-war books ever written, January 18, 2003
War is war. Innocent civilians die, families are ruined and soldiers are smashed to pieces on the battlefield. This book is gruesome. But it also serves as a valuable tool for those who question the wisdom of blindly following leaders into combat.
This book is written with a fury. It is also one of the most horrifying accusations against war. To this end, it is arguably one of the best anti-war books ever written. Mothers and fathers should read this book before allowing their children to march off to war.
It is the honesty and sincerity of this World War I tale that allows it to pass the test of time. "johnny got his gun," is a book that documents the gross stupidity that accounted for nine million corpses.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel that scares and impresses, January 6, 2001
First of all, this book is a must read, for everyone who can bear it. The situation described is horrific, but this novel is also deeply touching and it motivates you to think, and think hard. Johnny is a soldier, catastrophically mutilated by an explosion, during wordlwar I. I won't spoil your enjoyment of reading this novel, by telling that the explosion has basically removed most of his senses (eyes, ears..) and ways of communicating with the outside world. He is placed in a hospital and treated, more or less, as a vegetable. Until one day, he finds a way to speak out. That's when he "got his gun", a weapon more feared than cannons and rocketlaunchers.
It is, as you might know by now, an anti-war testament, but not just any war. Please take a moment to read Trumbo's introduction where he explains that the WW II was different than the one in which context this novel was written. Trumbo considers WW II as fought over a just cause, and explains how he wasn't happy that "Johnny Got His Gun" was used as a propaganda material against war, in US.
The story is fascinating, moving and honest, and even if the plot is sometimes just a little bit weak, I rate it with 5 stars. It's a classic of the American narrative of the 20th century.
(note: in 1971 Trumbo directed a movie with the same title, written after the book. It might be interesting to watch it, as the director and the novel writer are the same person.)
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A harrowing anit-war novel, March 23, 1999
Johnny Got his Gun by Dalton Trumbo is a hard hitting, riveting, emotional and powerful anti-war novel, and it makes your goose bump pop through your skin. The story focuses on Joe Bonham, who was a W.W.I infantry soldier who lost his legs, arms, hearing, smell, and sight. The only thing left of him was his mind. Joe had no sense of time or reality, so we find in the story Joe jumps from dreams to dream, which he can't tell if they are real or imaginary. Eventually Joe reaches consciousness, only to discover the horrifying fact that he is just a stump. Cut off from the world and entraped in his own mind, Joe learns to use his mind to communicate in new ways . He used Morse-codes to interact with the people around him. All Joe's misfortune lead him to the conclusion that war comes too high of a price. Joe said "I would trade independence and honor and freedom and decency for life." I would recommend this book to anyone who like to see an alternative side to war. So for all you couch potatoes out there who have nothing to do, get off your butts and check this book out! You might thank me one day.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reality of War, May 3, 2001
By 
"cbruffle" (Arlington, TX USA) - See all my reviews
The brutal, terrifying, and uncompromising occurrence of war has destroyed millions of lives in past centuries. In Johnny Got His Gun the horrible realities of war are illustrated through the mind of a helpless victim of war named Joe Bonham. In the book Joe loses his eyes, ears, nose all the way to his throat, arms, and legs due to a bomb blast. He goes through life lying on a hospital bed thinking to himself and trying to reach out and communicate with his nurses by tapping his head on his pillow in Morse code. When he finally communicates he is not given any help. The author, Dalton Trumbo, uses details, appropriate syntax, and diction for Joe's thoughts to indicate that the gruesome idea of war must be avoided at all costs.
Trumbo uses an abundance of very simple details in Joe's description of the events of his life, many of which are appealing to the senses. These sensory details not only help the reader picture the situations and relate to the characters but they also provide a contrast with Joe's condition. While at war, a bomb explosion left him without a sense of sight, hearing, and taste. At the hospital Joe thinks about his life before he went to war. In one instance Joe thinks about when he worked at a bakery and remembers blueberry pies, hot crossed buns, and roses given to his boss by a fellow worker. Later in the book Joe thinks about the many fruits and vegetables that his father grew and his mother canned. Every item of food Joe mentions is a reminder to the reader that he will never taste food again. Such small details can evoke so much sympathy for Joe.
Trumbo also uses a very intelligent and accurate syntax for the streaming, desperate, or sometimes quick thoughts of Joe. Trumbo does not use punctuation in this novel which may suggest he wanted Joe to sound as though he had a stream of thoughts. When Joe thinks about things he likes in his past life, the sentence structure is narrative, flowing, and said with a calm and peaceful tone. In telling about his job at the bread factory Joe says "Walking all night long and working hard and getting eighteen dollars at the end of the week for your trouble. Not bad."(65) However when Joe is worried about something or becomes panicky, the syntax changes to panic with the tone. As Joe is coming to the realization of being totally disabled, he becomes frantic and says "Oh please no. No no. It isn't me. Help me. It can't be me. Not me. No no no....".(64)
Trumbo uses diction to reveal the truth about war. In the very beginning of the book Joe loses a close family member. The discovery of the death for the reader is very blunt when Joe says "Jody I got to go home. My father just died."(4) This event sets the tone of the book as lonely and depressing. Joe has not been in the hospital very long but he thinks to himself "there was a thick silence and yearning to listen and lonesomeness."(14) Joe becoming totally disabled continues the book with a sympathetic and sorrowful tone. Although the book is swarming with depressing horrific depictions of war the accomplishments Joe makes while on the hospital bed are very inspiring and prove to outweigh the bad. Perhaps the most moving part of the book was when Joe, after trying so long, actually communicated with someone. The nurse has brought a man to send Morse code by tapping Joe on the forehead. Joe says "A finger came out of the darkness a finger so enormous that it shattered against his forehead like the crash of a pile driver. It echoed inside his brain like thunder in a cave."(217) Joe seems as though he will be rescued but the man who he had made first contact with just dismisses Joe's persistent head tapping and sticks a needle in him to put him to sleep. The book ends with a mocking tone in the sentence "You plan the wars you masters of men plan the wars and point the way and we will point the gun."(243)
Through use of diction, syntax, and detail Trumbo was able to reasonably expose the controversial issue of the harsh realities of war and how people should not be sent to die against their will. Even though Trumbo wrote this book in fiction it is very believable because it is so realistic and everything in it probably has happened. If every member of every military in the world could read this book then they might think twice before having a war.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read For All, March 16, 2006
At its core, this is an anti-war novel - if not the anti-war novel. And personally, as a soldier in the US Army, some might be surprised for me to say that this is one of my favorite books of all time. It is powerful and poignant that reveals one of the true and unavoidable essences of war, death. It shows it in a "in your face" perspective not typically achieved by many anti-war works.

I disagree that war or force should never be used, as I do believe that in a world of tyrants, dictators, and evil that is an unfortunately necessary tool in American foreign policy. However, war should always be a last resort and never should the decision be an easy one. The true consequences of war should always be kept in mind so that we truly are going to war for the right purposes. It is a sad fact today that there are a declining number of politicians who are war veterans who understand the true pains of going to war. For this reason, Johnny Got His Gun should be a must read for all so that on some level we all can connect to the pain of war.

One thought, however, Dalton Trumbo tries to say through the book that no one has a right to say that some cause is worth dying for--because no one can speak for the dead. However, isn't that exactly what Trumbo is doing? He is trying to speak for the dead through his character Joe Bonham and saying that the dead believe that no cause is worth dying for. It's hypocritical to say that it applies for one side but not the other.

Nevertheless, this book is an important read for all and a major literary foundation of the anti-war movement that all should understand.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Ugly Point of View, August 30, 2005
By 
"Johnny Got His Gun" is fantastic, but it is very ugly. This is the story of one WWWI soldier with a devastating injury that has basically left him a living slab of meat. The soldier is unable to hear move or communicate with the outside world. This is his story of how he lives within his mind. The reader is given both the realities of war injuries as well as the author's point of view on war. Understand that Dalton Trumbo is very anti-war and makes no bones about this. If you are pro-war-on-terror and cannot stand the other point of view, do not read this book because it will only infuriate you. However, if you are either anti-war or pro-war that can discuss rationally the other side views, then of course read this book. Trumbo has humanized the realities of war through this soldier. No matter what your politics are, there are realities that must be faced and he does with medical aloofness. Trumbo puts you into the mind of this soldier as he tries to cope with his situation. There are flashbacks to his earlier life as well as dealing with an itch that he cannot scratch.

This book is both hard to read and should not be missed. It is a true classic and has relevancy 60 years after it was written. Regardless or your politics, "Johnny Got His Gun" shows what happens to the injured after the injury and it is not pretty and that is the point of this book. Extremely Highly Recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If everyone read this there would be peace on earth, December 10, 2000
By 
Michael Kilianski (Richard Stockton College, NJ) - See all my reviews
This is one of the few books I've ever read that made me cry, and cry for a long time. The horror, as expressed by trumbo through his character of a disabled World War One veteran who has been reduced to a hunk of flesh but is still capable of thought, is something which will never leave me as long as I live.
It isn't just the horror of what happened that makes this book so touching. It's the fact that we as readers can go inside this man's thoughts, and we see his remembrances of a life gone by, that he only wishes he can have again. Dalton Trumbo's novel puts a face on the horror of warfare, one that I wish the world never had to see again.
The leaders of the world should forced to read this novel.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ~I never cry nor read as much as i should but..., February 23, 2000
By A Customer
...this book had me in tears and enthralled! I let it envelop me as i read the whole book in one day. ~The way it is written is disliked by some, but one must realize that the lack of punctuation is needed to produce the in-mind feeling, or flow of concinseness that, with out, this story would be nowhere. This IS the tail of a young soldier whose life is TAKEN from him in World WarII... and though he still lives, he "lives" as a deaf-and-dumb quad-amputee with a crator for a face and less than stumps for limbs. ~This story is a "collection" of delusional thoughts/memories/dreams of a drugged stump. Unable to communicate or even really know what is going on, he is left with nothing but his mind- That which he explores extensively. ~It opened my eyes to things other than just the brutalities of war, but to the brutalities of life in general, things that are all to easilly ignored and forgotten by all that live confortably. ~This novel is well written as it switches back and forth from "the present time" to the boy's colourful past life as "told/remembered" by him. ~Though this writting may sometimes give the feeling of detatchment from the "real story" to some, one must realize that it all really does tie in with the overall meaning (which is... well, i'll let you derive that on your own). Though all of it is "seen" throught the "eyes" of a heavily sedated hunk of thinking flesh- one does not have to be drugged out of mind to comprehend it for ones' self. ~The things that take place during the "present time" allows one to know what it is that the boy is going through, as the flashbacks give insight into the charachter of this boy and the situations he had been in to make him as such in character. You, as the reader, are at his bed side through out it all -the whole duration- with no desire to leave him. ~The author expertly employs everyday emotion and thought to draw/let the reader into this soldier's incredably small, yet bitterly lonely world. The blunt reality is shocking yet presented in such graceless tact it amazes. ~I read this book during the summer following my Freshman year in highschool. Still, as i suspect it always will be, it is welcomed in to haunt my thoughts occasionally. ~I liked it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of its kind, unquestionably a classic, October 17, 2006
Possibly the best anti-war novel ever written. Follow Johnny from wide-eyed optimist to mangled anti-warrior. Moving like few other novels. A must read, though shocking and disturbing. No wonder it was surpressed again and again in times of war; it can make a difference.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought- Provoking, But Not Without Its Problems, February 5, 2004
Trumbo makes some powerful points in this book, and raises some great questions; are those who are killed in war proud to have died for their country? Since the dead don't talk, there is no way of knowing. Through the character of Joe Bonham, he allows us to more closely consider this question. Bonham has lost his capacity to "live" in any real sense of the word, because he has lost his arms, legs, and all of his senses. For all practical purposes, he is a dead man who still has the ability to reflect upon the meaning of war and its futility.
His basic point is that he'd rather alive in an "un-free" society than dead. It's an understandable point to make; most people would chose to forfeit some freedoms in order to live. But some of the more complex issues about war are avoided by Trumbo.
Throughout history, there are countless of examples of countries believing that laying down their arms would stop the bloodshed, only to find that it was the precursor to mass death. Cambodia in 1975 is but one example of such logic, when the Lon Knol government surrendered to the Khmer Rouge and were massacred. There is also the case of the Japanese invasion of Nanking, when the Japanes Imperial Army promised fair treatment in return for surrender; what they got was a six week reign of terror full of burning, raping, and pillaging.
Mr. Trumbo's book is a potent reminder to not wage war recklessly. But it's naive to think you can preserve life through sheer pacifism. A very moving book, although one-sided.
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Johnny Got His Gun
Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (Paperback - July 1, 2007)
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