Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Johnny Got His Gun

Rate this book
This was no ordinary war. This was a war to make the world safe for democracy. And if democracy was made safe, then nothing else mattered - not the millions of dead bodies, nor the thousands of ruined lives...

This is no ordinary novel. This is a novel that never takes the easy way out: it is shocking, violent, terrifying, horrible, uncompromising, brutal, remorseless and gruesome... but so is war.

Winner of the National Book Award.

309 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1939

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Dalton Trumbo

43 books405 followers
Dalton Trumbo worked as a cub reporter for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, covering courts, the high school, the mortuary and civic organizations. He attended the University of Colorado for two years working as a reporter for the Boulder Daily Camera and contributing to the campus humor magazine, the yearbook and the campus newspaper. He got his start working for Vogue magazine. His first published novel, Eclipse, was about a town and its people, written in the social realist style, and drew on his years in Grand Junction. He started writing for movies in 1937; by the 1940s, he was one of Hollywood's highest paid writers for work on such films as Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), and Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945), and Kitty Foyle (1940), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay.

Trumbo's 1939 anti-war novel, Johnny Got His Gun, won a National Book Award (then known as an American Book Sellers Award) that year. The novel was inspired by an article Trumbo read about a soldier who was horribly disfigured during World War I.

In 1947, Trumbo, along with nine other writers and directors, was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee as an unfriendly witness to testify on the presence of communist influence in Hollywood. Trumbo refused to give information. After conviction for contempt of Congress, he was blacklisted, and in 1950, spent 11 months in prison in the federal penitentiary in Ashland, KY. Once released, he moved to Mexico.

In 1993, Trumbo was awarded the Academy Award posthumously for writing Roman Holiday (1953). The screen credit and award were previously given to Ian McLellan Hunter, who had been acting as a "front" for Trumbo since he had been blacklisted by Hollywood.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
19,231 (46%)
4 stars
13,816 (33%)
3 stars
6,146 (14%)
2 stars
1,527 (3%)
1 star
691 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,986 reviews
Profile Image for Stephanie.
141 reviews72 followers
October 23, 2007
I read this book during my lunch breaks at the cafe of Barnes & Noble in Chelsea, NYC. I think I finished it in five sittings, with great big tears rolling down my face. While everybody around me was busy quaffing scalding hot lattes, I was trying to muffle the sounds of my agonized weeping into my scarf. Luckily, this is not seen as strange behavior in Manhattan, so I was able to finish the book unmolested.

Johnny Got His Gun sounds like it was written during the early stages of the Vietnam War (I think because the tone is very Salinger-esque), but it's actually set during WW I. The ending makes you want to slit your wrists, but in a good way. This is a great book to read when you're facing a dark time in your life. I don't think life could be any worse than this protagonist's, who has lost his arms and legs, in addition to sustaining serious burns to his face as results of injuries he incurred on the battlefield.

For some reason, I group this book with Flowers for Algernon and I Am the Cheese, maybe because all three have similar themes of spoiled youth and corrupt government machinations.

Fun fact: This book was written by Dalton Trumbo, who was one of the infamous Hollywood Ten that got blacklisted by House on UnAmerican Activities Committee for having left-leaning political sensibilities. Thankfully, he managed to keep working despite other people's attempts to rid Hollywood of Communists, going on to pen the screenplays to Spartacus, The Horsemen, and Papillion. These scripts were in addition to an already impressive roster of films that include Roman Holiday, Kitty Foyle, and I Married a Witch, . So suck on that, Elia Kazan!!!
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,964 reviews294k followers
May 3, 2023
If they talk about dying for principles that are bigger than life you say mister you're a liar. Nothing is bigger than life. There's nothing noble in death. What's noble about lying in the ground and rotting? What's noble about never seeing the sunshine again?

A few weeks ago I was in a weird mood and decided to peruse a Goodreads list called The Most Disturbing Books Ever Written. I then went on to read Push (a truly horrific, revolting book that I cannot unsee for the life of me) and this one.

The people who voted on that list were right-- this book is disturbing. But not in the way Push was, or some of the other books on the list were. Not crass, or overly gross or repulsive. No monsters. No weird sex. No murderous psychopaths. But it is absolutely terrifying.

This book feels like being buried alive. It feels like screaming at the top of your lungs but no sound coming out. And chapter 10 contains some of the most powerful writing I have ever read.
Everybody said America was fighting a war for the triumph of decency. But whose idea of decency? And decency for who? Speak up and tell us what decency is. Tell us how much better a decent dead man feels than an indecent live one.

It is about an American soldier called Joe who awakes in a military hospital and begins to take inventory of his injuries, gradually learning the horrifying extent of what has happened to him. This is interspersed with flashbacks to his life before he went to war, painting in a picture of how he came to be where he is.

It's just a truly distressing concept. I can see why this works as an antiwar text, but also why it might enrage those from a military background. I do think Trumbo's depiction of soldiers as mindlessly buying into propaganda is reductive and somewhat insulting. Like any sane person, I detest war, and I understand the sentiments expressed in Buffy Sainte Marie's Universal Soldier, but I also recognise that throwing down your weapon when faced with an enemy that wishes to harm you is pretty naive.

So I have mixed feelings about the message, but zero complaints about the power of this devastating story.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
November 11, 2021
Johnny Got His Gun, Dalton Trumbo (1905 - 1976)

Johnny Got His Gun is a novel written in 1938 by American novelist and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and published September 1939 by J. B. Lippincott.

The novel is commonly viewed as one that promotes anti-war ideals, but when read deeper, it can be seen that Trumbo's opinions of war shed light on humanity as a whole, and not just on the horrible aspects of war.

Joe Bonham, a young American 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 all of his face (including his eyes, ears, teeth, and tongue), but that his mind functions perfectly, leaving him a prisoner in his own body. ...

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «تفنگت را زمین بگذار»؛ «جانی تفنگش را برداشت»؛ نویسنده: دالتون ترامبو؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز دوم ماه آگوست سال2014میلادی

عنوان: تفنگت را زمین بگذار؛ نوشته: دالتون ترامبو؛ مترجم شاهپور سخی؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، نشر تیسا، سال1392، در241ص، شابک9786006662169؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده س20م

رمان «تفنگت را زمین بگذار»، کتابی سرشار از رخدادهای تلخ، و دردناک است؛ نویسنده کوشیده، جنگ جهانی دوم را، همانطور که بوده، و بدون ملاحظه روایت کند؛ رمان «تفنگت را زمین بگذار»، اثر «دالتون ترامبو»؛ در سال1939میلادی، ده روز پس از «اتحاد نازی‌های آلمان»، و «اتحاد جماهیر شوروی»، و دو روز پس از آغاز جنگ جهانی دوم، به زیر چاپ رفت؛ و در آغاز جنگ جهانی دوم، با عنوان «جانی تفنگش را برداشت» منتشر شد؛

نقل از مقدمه: (جنگ جهانی نخست، شبیه یک فستیوال تابستانی، با زنانی در دامنهایی موّاج، و مردانی با سردوشیهای طلایی، آغاز شد؛ شاهزادگان و بزرگان، و فرماندهانِ چاق و چله، و احمقهایی از این دست، در راس ستون لژیونهای پُرتجمل، در پایتختهای اروپایی، در برابر شادی و تشویق میلیونها انسان، رژه میرفتند؛ دوره ی سخاوتمندی، و بخشش بود؛ مباهات، دسته های موزیک، شعر، آهنگ، و دعاهای ساده، و معصومانه؛ شبهایی تابستانی، مملو از زندگی، و پایانی نافرجام، با افسرانی نجیب، و آرزوهایی که برای همیشه پشت سر میگذاشتند؛ پس از کشته شدن بیش از «نُه میلیون انسان»، و خاموش شدن صدای نوازندگان، و برقرار شدن دوباره ی آرامش، و افکار خالی از هیجانهای جنگ، «مارشْ» دیگر هرگز، با چنان احساسی نواخته نشد؛ این جنگ شاید یکی از آخرین جنگهای قهرمانانه، و رمانتیکی بود، که برپا میشد، و «تفنگت را زمین بگذار»، شاید آخرین کتابی بود، که پیش از برپایی پدیده ای کاملاً تازه، که با نام «جنگ جهانی دوم» شناخته میشد، به رشته تحریر درآمد؛ میتوان گفت، که این کتاب بیانگر تاریخچه ی سیاسی عجیبی است؛ کتاب حاضر، در سال1938میلادی، نوشته شده است؛ در زمانه ای که، صلح طلبی نظریه ای منفور، و طرد شده، در میان چپها، و نیروهای میانه بود؛ این کتاب، در روز سوم ماه سپتامبر سال1939میلادی، ده روز پس اتحاد «نازیهای آلمان» و «اتحاد جماهیر شوروی (مرحوم)» و دو روز پس از آغاز جنگ جهانی دوم، به زیر چاپ رفت)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 17/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 19/08/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.5k followers
August 24, 2019

A scathing anti-war novel, in which the main character is one of the profoundly, hopelessly wounded, the human wrecks of war.

It is told in the first person, by the voice of a person now voiceless, trapped in his mutilated body, confined to his hospital bed, and--as this person virtually unable to communicate communicates with the reader, telling us his story--we come to realize the true cost--and futility--of war.

This is an angry, honest book. Thoroughly memorable.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews68.1k followers
July 3, 2019
Manufacturing Taste

The story of this story is probably its most interesting part. The idea for it started as a Canadian news article recounting a royal visit to a Canadian quadriplegic soldier who had been injured in World War I. Twenty years later Trumbo turned this idea into a book about an American soldier that included much autobiographical material. Seventy-five years after that, Larry Brown in his Dirty War of 2012 transformed it yet again into a hospital dialogue between two veterans of the war in Viet-Nam. The progression from fact to rapportage, to interpreted story, to re-interpreted story is fascinating.

Equally fascinating is the political fate of both the book and its author, one of the most highly paid screenwriters of the day. Both were attacked by the political Left in the United States in the late 1930’s for pacifist propaganda. The Far Right wrote fan mail. After World War II, book and author were again attacked as pacifist but then by the political Right. Trumbo was summoned by the House UnAmerican Acitivities Committee of Senator Joseph McCarthy but he refused to testify. He was consequently blacklisted in the Hollywood film industry but managed to write two Academy Award winning scripts under pseudonyms.

By the time of the Vietnamese war, Trumbo had been ‘rehabilitated’. In 1971 he wrote and directed a decidedly anti-war film version of the book. In 2003 Trumbo’s son, Christopher made a film, Red, White, and Blacklisted, about the book and its consequences for Dalton. A more comprehensive biographical film was released in 2015 which uses the book as its focal point. Certainly the whims and vagaries of official taste in the Stalinist Soviet Union were at least rivalled by the shifting mass opinion manufactured in the American political system.

There is no doubt about Trumbo’s talent as a writer. Johnny won a National Book Award as the ‘most original’ work of fiction in 1939. But without its political notoriety it most probably would have remained merely a good work of its day. Today it’s main value is as a sort of repository of American cultural themes of the inter-war period - optimistic youth, economic depression, exploitation of immigrants, West Coast cosmopolitanism, and a deep nostalgia for life before 1914.

Of course the book still serves as a warning to those who conceive of war as something that a country turns on and off as if it were a handy appliance, or those who believe that the real enemy of every infantry soldier is something other than the rats and his officers and, eventually, even his doctors. But so much more has been written since, with so much more graphic detail of the personal and national consequences of combat, that Johnny seems little more now than a tame historical relic which has more to teach about aesthetics in a democracy than pacifism.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,385 reviews2,256 followers
March 1, 2023

Two days after Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Johnny Got His Gun, one of the greatest anti-war novels ever, was first published. And when I think beyond WW2, and beyond Vietnam, right up to more recent wars and those who have been blown to bits, or living with without limbs, from serving in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, along with the latest casualty of war out there somewhere right now, then this novel is depressingly timely, and probably always will be. Because let's face it, when are we ever going to throw down our guns and do away with our bombs and just all live in peace. In a dream maybe, but not in the real world.

If Johnny Got His Gun ‘is any good at all’, Trumbo wrote to his publisher, ‘it is good as an argument against war.’ The history of the book’s reception is just as interesting as the book itself, as Trumbo was wrongly accused of writing it at the prompting of his Stalinist comrades, he was also dismayed that the novel attracted support and a great deal of fan-mail from the pro-Fascist American Right, and as World War Two dragged on it disappeared from view, only to came back in fashion during the Korean War and again at the time of Vietnam, when it had a considerable impact. So it can be seen as an influential cult novel too, with the Beats, and even Bob Dylan being influenced by Trumbo's breathless style.

For those who don't know, and I'm sure there are many that do, the story is based on a newspaper report about a Canadian soldier wounded in World War One, who lost his face, his limbs, and all his senses apart from the sense of touch, but who nevertheless somehow survived well into the 1930s. After an explosion in a dugout on the Western Front, Joe Bonham, a soldier, lies in an unknown hospital. The nurses’ hands, the vibrations caused by people walking around the ward, the pain of the sheets against his wounds are his only contact with the outside world. Joe soon realises he is "the nearest thing to a dead man on Earth ... a dead man with a mind that could think".
He is unable to separate the present from his hallucinations of the past, and who can blame him. We delve back to his work and his love life in Los Angeles, and before, his upbringing in Colorado. Trumbo writes cleverly by putting the reader right inside Joe’s head by using various cinematic techniques like flashbacks, montage, fade-ins and fade-outs. He also Fills the novel with visceral and revolting images that represent the real horror that war inflicts. In the visionary final section, an uneasy combination of the idealistic and the grotesque, Joe succeeds in communicating his wishes to the doctors by tapping Morse code into his pillow with his head, informing them that he wishes to be displayed to the world, like a circus freak, as a warning against war.

Johnny Got His Gun illustrates Trumbo’s determination, as he put it, to ‘use art as a weapon for the future of mankind. It’s a work that was easy to read and impossible to forget. Thanks so much to those who recommended it.
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,242 reviews2,257 followers
March 9, 2019
I simply have to read this book. It, including its author, has been cussed by Ann Coulter on her latest blog post. That is recommendation enough for me!

Devastating read! Review coming.

Detailed Review

This must be the most disturbing war novel that I have read – if not the most disturbing novel EVER. The reader is forced by the author to spend the whole length of time he reads this book inside the head of his protagonist. Why? Because the protagonist is an injured soldier, who has lost his legs, his arms, and the whole of his face. He can’t speak, see, hear, taste, or smell – the only sense organ left is the skin on his diminished torso. But unfortunately, his brain is very much alive, trapped in this vegetable of a body. And that is where we the readers are, too, for the duration of the narrative.
He had no arms and no legs.

He threw back his head and started to yell from fright. But he only started because he had no mouth to yell with. He was so surprised at not yelling when he tried that he began to work his jaws like a man who has found something interesting and wants to test it. He was so sure the idea of no mouth was a dream that he could investigate it calmly. He tried to work his jaws and he had no jaws. He tried to run his tongue around the inside of his teeth and over the roof of his mouth as if he were chasing a raspberry seed. But he didn't have any tongue and he hadn't any teeth. There was no roof to his mouth and there was no mouth. He tried to swallow but he couldn't because he had no palate and there weren't any muscles left to swallow with.
This nightmare is compounded by the fact that he is very much alive; he is Joe Bonham, twenty years of age, son of a loving mother and father and who has two younger sisters and the love of his life Kareen waiting for him: but that is only in his mind. For the staff of the hospital he is a nameless patient, a disgusting freak which is just a caved out head stuck on a limbless body. Worst of all – it is a life sentence.
He would be in this womb forever and ever and ever. He must remember that. He must never expect or hope for anything different. This was his life from now on every day and every hour and every minute of it. He would never again be able to say hello how are you I love you. He would never again be able to hear music or the whisper of the wind through trees or the chuckle of running water. He would never again breathe in the smell of a steak frying in his mother's kitchen or the dampness of spring in the air or the wonderful fragrance of sagebrush carried on the wind across a wide open plain. He would never again be able to see the faces of people who made you glad just to look at them of people like Kareen. He would never again be able to see sunlight or the stars or the little grasses that grow on a Colorado hillside.
Lying on his back with only memories for company, Joe almost goes mad – until he finds a way to keep track of time (based on the daily cycle of the nurses) and finally, to communicate. But even that is doomed to end in disappointment, as the author is determined that we shall not escape.


This novel is brilliantly written. Trumbo uses the stream of consciousness technique, with less punctuation and capitalisation than is warranted, and the reader is plunged into a world of tortuous sentences that run on and on, interspersed with short staccato ones; and also beautiful passages tinged with nostalgia... the narrative structure captures the internal world of the doomed protagonist beautifully. The memories are poignant, funny and melancholic in turn – one feels that if this was a movie, it will be done in muted sepia tones. Then there are those sudden shifts to the terror of the now.
"Goodbye Joe."

"Goodbye Kareen."

"Joe dear darling Joe hold me closer. Drop your bag and put both of your arms around me and hold me tightly. Put both of your arms around me. Both of them."

You in both of my arms Kareen goodbye. Both of my arms. Kareen in my arms. Both of them. Arms arms arms arms. I'm fainting in and out all the time Kareen and I'm not catching on quick. You are in my arms Kareen. You in both of my arms. Both of my arms. Both of them. Both

I haven't got any arms Kareen.

My arms are gone.

Both of my arms are gone Kareen both of them.

They're gone.

Kareen Kareen Kareen.

They've cut my arms off both of my arms.

Oh Jesus mother god Kareen they've cut off both of them.

Oh Jesus mother god Kareen Kareen Kareen my arms.

This is most definitely an anti-war novel, a novel written with a purpose – and so sometimes, does slip into outright sloganeering. But since it’s done by Joe in his mind, it does not take away from the strength of the narrative – and the author does get his point across.
...So did all those kids die thinking of democracy and freedom and liberty and honor and the safety of the home and the stars and stripes forever?

You're goddam right they didn't.

They died crying in their minds like little babies. They forgot the thing they were fighting for the things they were dying for. They thought about things a man can understand. They died yearning for the face of a friend. They died whimpering for the voice of a mother a father a wife a child. They died with their hearts, sick for one more look at the place where they were born please god just one more look. They died moaning and sighing for life. They knew what was important. They knew that life was everything and they died with screams and sobs. They died with only one thought in their minds and that was I want to live I want to live I want to live.
There's nothing noble about dying. Not even if you die for honor. Not even if you die the greatest hero the world ever saw. Not even if you're so great your name will never be forgotten and who's that great? The most important thing is your life little guys. You're worth nothing dead except for speeches. Don’t let them kid you any more. Pay no attention when they tap you on the shoulder and say come along we've got to fight for liberty or whatever their word is there's always a word.
Honour, Patriotism, Liberty, Chivalry... all fine words, thundered by world leaders across the globe from pulpits to the deafening cheers of their followers. And what does it bring the “little guy”, the soldier at the front? Nothing but death and misery. There is no honour in war, in killing and getting killed.

Trumbo ends the novel with a warning:
We are men of peace we are men who work and we want no quarrel. But if you destroy our peace if you take away our work if you try to range us one against the other we will know what to do. If you tell us to make the world safe for democracy we will take you seriously and by god and by Christ we will make it so. We will use the guns you force upon us we will use them to defend our very lives and the menace to our lives does not lie on the other side of a nomansland that was set apart without our consent it lies within our own boundaries here and now we have seen it and we know it.

Put the guns into our hands and we will use them. Give us the slogans and we will turn them into realities. Sing the battle hymns and we will take them up where you left off. 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 tranquillity in security in decency in peace. You plan the wars you masters of men plan the wars and point the way and we will point the gun.
There is no doubt where the guns will be ultimately pointed. No wonder it pissed off many people!


Dalton Trumbo was a victim of McCarthyism, a name in the original “Hollywood Blacklist” generated as part of the “Red Scare” in the USA. His career was effectively destroyed. Reading this novel, it is easy to see how his humanist ideas would have been anathema to the powers that be.

A must-read – if you can stomach it.
Profile Image for Brett C(urrently overseas again).
784 reviews167 followers
May 2, 2021
I thought this was OK. The setting is an American soldier, Joe Bonham, in a military hospital during WWI. While on the front, an artillery attack blew off his limbs and left him blind, deaf, and mute. This is all experienced through Joe's perspective as he slips in and out of his present-day reality, war memories, and various memories from childhood and adolescence.

Overall the book read quickly but I had to pay attention as reality and dream intertwined without warning. I would describe the writing style as disjointed, distressed, and sometimes confusing. The narrative is written in stream of consciousness with run-on sentences and fragmented thought patterns. At times the writing was eloquent and clear; other times it mimicked anxiety and pressured speech in rate, rhythm, and tone. I would describe this similar to someone trying to express themselves while having a panic attack or having a manic episode.

About half way through I realized Born On The Forth of July by Ron Kovic was way better. Ron Kovic wrote with pain but also showed hope and wanting to heal. This book was darker in tone and the sentiment was anti-war. It's not a bad book but different. Thanks!
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,656 followers
September 6, 2017
This novel about an American soldier who was severely wounded while fighting in World War I was so disturbing it took me several tries to get through it.

The novel is told in a stream of consciousness, with soldier Joe drifting in and out of memories of his parents, of girlfriends, of more innocent days. He slowly realizes that he has no arms, no legs and no face, and his cries are gut-wrenching. I listened to this book on audio, and the performance by William Dufris was so affecting that I had to take breaks from the book. I'm glad I came back to it and kept going, because this is a moving story about how much soldiers can suffer.

I was inspired to read Johnny Got His Gun after it was mentioned in Ann Hood's bookish memoir Morningstar. She wrote an essay about how she had first read Dalton Trumbo's book while growing up during the Vietnam war, and how meaningful it had been. Now I've read it while the United States is preparing to send more troops to Afghanistan, and I also found it to be a powerful experience.

This is a challenging and thought-provoking book, and I would recommend it to readers who appreciate anti-war novels.

Note on Style
One last note is that while I did listen to this novel, I also got a print copy to flip through and mark quotes. Trumbo used little punctuation for Joe's rambling thoughts — the writing style reminded me of Kerouac's On the Road, except Trumbo did it in 1939, nearly 20 years before Jack's famous Beat novel. I think the audiobook performance made it easier to read and appreciate Johnny Got His Gun. If you've tried to read this book before and struggled with the run-on sentences, I recommend trying the audio.

Meaningful Passages
"This was no war for you. This thing wasn't any of your business. What do you care about making the world safe for democracy? All you wanted to do Joe was to live. You were born and raised in the good healthy country of Colorado and you had no more to do with Germany or England or France or even with Washington D.C. than you had to do with the man on the moon. Yet here you are and it was none of your affair. Here you are Joe and you're hurt worse than you think. You're hurt bad. Maybe it would be a lot better if you were dead and buried on the hill across the river from Shale City. Maybe there are more things wrong with you than you suspect Joe. Oh why the hell did you ever get into this mess anyhow? Because it wasn't your fight Joe. You never really knew what the fight was all about."

"There's nothing noble about dying. Not even if you die for honor. Not even if you die the greatest hero the world ever saw. Not even if you're so great your name will never be forgotten and who's that great? The most important thing is your life little guys. You're worth nothing dead except for speeches. Don't let them kid you any more. Pay no attention when they tap you on the shoulder and say come along we've got to fight for liberty or whatever their word is there's always a word. Just say mister I'm sorry I got no time to die I'm too busy and then turn and run like hell. If they say coward why don't pay attention because it's your job to live not to die. If they talk about dying for principles that are bigger than life you say mister you're a liar. Nothing is bigger than life. There's nothing noble in death. What's noble about lying in the ground and rotting? What's noble about never seeing the sunshine again? What's noble about having your legs and arms blown off? What's noble about being an idiot? What's noble about being blind and deaf and dumb? What's noble about being dead? Because when you're dead mister it's all over. It's the end. You're less than a dog less than a rat less than a bee or an ant less than a little white maggot crawling around on a dungheap. You're dead mister and you died for nothing."

"We are men of peace we are men who work and we want no quarrel. But if you destroy our peace if you take away our work if you try to range us one against the other we will know what to do. If you tell us to make the world safe for democracy we will take you seriously and by god and by Christ we will make it so. We will use the guns you force upon us we will use them to defend our very lives and the menace to our lives does not lie on the other side of a nomansland that was set apart without our consent it lies within our own boundaries here and now we have seen it and we know it."
Profile Image for Jesse.
92 reviews14 followers
April 5, 2023
Here's a list of words that describe this book:
      Gruesome, grotesque, morbid,     
      uncomfortable, dark,  
      unhinged, horrific, horrible, appalling,   
      grisly, horrendous, grim,
      unnatural, and ghoulish

Here's a list of emotions that You will feel while reading this book:

     Sad, mad, bitter, dismal, pessimistic,
     somber, angry, enraged, lost,
     and confused.

Johnny got his Gun is an amazing work of fiction. Joe Bonham takes a shell in World War One and becomes an uncommunicative torso with a perfect functioning mind. A man trapped in his own body. Joe takes us on his journey to understand his new world and teaches us some amazing lessons along the way. Life over death, and words aren't worth dying for.

" He could tell all these high talking murdering sonsofbitches who screamed for blood just how wrong they were. He could tell them mister there's nothing worth dying for I know because I'm dead. There's no word worth your life. I would rather work In a coal mine deep under the earth and never see sunlight and eat crusts and water and work twenty hours a day. I would rather do that than be dead. I would trade democracy for life. I would trade independence and honor and decency for life. I will give you all these things and you give me the power to walk and see and hear and breathe the air and taste my food. You take the words. Give me back my life. I'm not asking for a happy life now. I'm not asking for a decent life or an honorable life or a free life. I'm beyond that. I'm dead so I'm simply asking for life. To live. To feel. To be something that moves over the ground and isn't dead. I know what death is and all you people who talk about dying for words don't even know what life is."
    Joe Bonham.
Profile Image for Candace Whitney Morris.
188 reviews53 followers
September 4, 2007
Every time I read a book, I feel committed to it as if to a relationship. That relationship can be an infatuational fling, a carnal attraction, a passionate love, a committed best friend, a life partner...whatever form it takes will depend on how much I will remember it. Johnny Got His Gun got completely under my skin.

I was finishing the last page on an airplane and an 80 year old yoga teacher looked at me and quietly summed up this book. "I remember reading that. It blew my mind..." She had read it in 1965!

I have always considered myself a political pacifist. I realized this is because I shelter, absolutely shelter myself from the horrifics of war and violence. I have always chosen to live in the dark because I KNEW the rage would overtake me if I chose to care. Well, Trumbo sure as hell got me to care. Even if this never changes the fact that I don’t vote...this absolutely got me to give a damn and know why I hate war.

I would have made my students read this when I was teaching - if I had known about it.

If you don't read anything this year - read this.

This book is like my first love. It will appear to me in my sleep. It will haunt my mind forever. It will be the year 2058, and I will see a young girl reading this on a airplane and be launched into delicious nostalgia.

Profile Image for HaMiT.
166 reviews29 followers
March 26, 2023
حدود یک سوم کتاب رو خوندم و فکر می‌کنم این اولین کتابی باشه که چون خودم توانایی و کشش ادامه دادنش رو ندارم بی‌خیال می‌شم
خصوصاً بعد از سالی که داشتیم و جوون‌های نازنینی که پر پر شدن
واقعاً نمی‌تونم
داستان‌های سیاه دیگه‌ای که می‌خوندم می‌تونستم خودمو قانع کنم که حداقل عناصر خارج از جهان واقعی دارن ولی این یکی واقعی‌تر از تحملم بود
تجربه‌ی خوندنش مثل این بود که دچار فلج خواب شده باشی و هیچ‌وقت نتونی ازش خلاص بشی
ذهنت بیداره و باقی اعضای بدنت کاملاً فلج شدن
از اون داستان‌ها که یادآوری می‌کنه واقعاً سرنوشت‌های بدتر از مرگ هم وجود داره

برای همین رفتم سراغ فیلمش و حداقل تونستم کل فیلم رو ببینم، چون تو این موارد درد و رنج توی تصویر کمی کمتر منتقل می‌شه
اگه خواستین توی یوتیوب رایگان موجوده
Profile Image for Esteban del Mal.
191 reviews64 followers
March 1, 2011
What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs in the water?


What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs on a porch?


What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs on skis?


What do you call a novel about a guy who has no arms and no legs because he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Johnny Got His Gun.


This works best as a character sketch. As poor Jon Bonham's consciousness recalls the events of his childhood, he simultaneously realizes he has missing appendages (and a missing face). And when the two threads meet, we are put in his mind alongside him. He is an inert trunk tucked away in a hospital because a German shell blew him apart in the horrifying attrition of WWI. It's like epiphenomenalism in reverse with a double shot of God is Dead.

What I have difficulty with is:

1.) his sophistication. He seems quite exceptional for Dalton's purpose of representing an average American Doughboy. Did your typical twenty-something male have a knowledge of Carthaginian history back then?

2.) his sanity. He goes insane at the end, but could someone in complete isolation keep it together for several years? I doubt it. (And my mom always told me that I'm exceptional, so there.)

3.) the dissolution into didacticism. The final few pages are a screed on par with Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator. The difference is, I buy Charlie's speech because he's knee deep in satire and it's not as jarring when he steps out of that satire. Maybe this is unfair, but Trumbo's effort is affected and, dare I say, as unnatural as the devices that conspire to keep his protagonist's body alive while neglecting his mind. Maybe Trumbo believes he has captured the reader to the extent that he can preach to him/her. I guess most people coming to the novel are looking to be preached at. I was not.

4.) it won't convince today's youth about the horrors of war because they've been inured to such things with their Xbox 360s. Besides, Bonham is eventually able to communicate with hospital staff through Morse Code. Unless salvation can be texted, kids these days aren't interested.

All the same, war can suck it.

And somebody give these hippies a haircut.
Profile Image for Guille.
757 reviews1,553 followers
August 25, 2019
Qué mal me sabe otorgarle a este libro solo tres estrellas. Y no solo por el tema antibelicista, del que estaba previamente más que convencido, aunque con ciertas objeciones en relación a la posición concreta que aquí se adopta, sino fundamentalmente por el propio autor al que admiro por su trabajo cinematográfico y, sobre todo, por la actitud que mantuvo durante toda su vida y, concretamente, durante aquellos horribles y vergonzosos años de la caza de brujas que emprendió el Comité de Actividades Antiamericanas (HUAC).

Quizás saber de antemano la situación de su protagonista (¿quién no ha visto la película u oído hablar de ella o del propio libro?), un hecho que en la novela se nos va desvelando poco a poco y en un principio bajo la duda que nos ofrece un narrador poco fiable, me restó algo de su atractivo. Puede ser, aunque también es cierto que este conocimiento dotó a los primeros momentos de la narración, posiblemente los más flojos de la obra, de una fuerza de la que carecía. Una fuerza que el autor sí supo conferir a muchos otros momentos de la novela pero que también sentí decaer en cada uno de los flashback sobre la vida que el protagonista vivió antes de la guerra en un idílico pueblo de Colorado, muy a lo Norman Rockwell, y que el autor contrapone al horror que vive el protagonista y que en mi opinión no necesitaba de un contraste tan facilón.

Aunque lo más probable es que todo esto no tenga la menor importancia y que todo se deba a que estoy echado a perder y que esta literatura directa, de tan fácil lectura y tan diáfano mensaje no consigue ya conmoverme.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,839 followers
March 9, 2016
I read this several years ago and I remember enjoying it. It was dark and frustrating - what would you do if trapped in your own body?

Also addresses the brutality of war as one on the outside might not understand.

What I thought of the most while reading it was the footage from the movie version that was used in the Metallica video for "One"

Profile Image for Sofia.
282 reviews94 followers
September 14, 2017
16 χρονών και αποφάσισα να πάω μία βόλτα από την βιβλιοθήκη του σχολείου καθότι εκείνη την περίοδο είχε αρχίσει να αναπτύσσεται η πραγματική σχέση μου με αυτά. Το μάτι μου έπεσε σε αυτό το βιβλίο για το οποίο είχα παντελή άγνοια σε μία έκδοση που δεν νομίζω καν να είχε περίληψη . Αποφάσισα λόγω του τίτλου να το πάρω.
Τα συναισθήματα που μου προκάλεσε είναι δύσκολο να τα περιγράψω. Σε αυτή την ηλικία υπάρχουν βιβλία που μας σημαδεύουν γιατί πολύ απλά είμαστε άγραφο χαρτί. Ο συγγραφέας αποκαλύπτει σταδιακά το εύρος της αναπηρίας του ήρωα. Η αφήγηση σε πρώτο πρόσωπο κάνει το αίσθημα εγκλωβισμού ακόμα ισχυρότερο. Ένας άνθρωπος, ή για την ακρίβεια ο, τι περίσσεψε από αυτόν, παγιδευμένος σε ένα πλήρως λειτουργικό νου.
Ο Τζόνι δεν γίνεται απλά ένα αντιπολεμικό σύμβολο, αλλά η προσωποποίηση της ίδιας της φρίκης του πολέμου. Ενός πολέμου που ως συνήθως ξεκινάει σαν γιορτή με υποσχέσεις για ελευθερία και καλύτερη ζωή και καταλήγει σε σακατεμένες ψυχές και σώματα.
Το τελείωσα σε 2 βράδια και με στοίχειωσε για πολύ περισσότερα. Αυτό το κουφάρι υπήρξε στο μυαλό μου για πολύ καιρό και ήξερα ότι κανένας λόγος δεν θα ήταν ποτέ αρκετός για να με πείσει ότι ο οποιοσδήποτε πόλεμος σε αυτόν τον κόσμο έχει το ελάχιστο νόημα. Γιατί είχα διαβάσει αυτό το βιβλίο και δεν θα μπορούσε κανείς πια να με ξεγελάσει.

Profile Image for Mel Bossa.
Author 29 books193 followers
June 27, 2017
When I started reading this I thought it would be a cool little book written by a cool anti-war american screenwriter who liked to write in his bathtub with a drink and a cigar. It would be a bit macho, full of robust sentences and I'd be properly disgusted by all the bloody descriptions.

And I was wrong.

How can a man write a book whose narrator is a young guy with no arms, no legs, no face, blind and deaf and who is in and out of consciousness, never reliable, who spends his endless dark hours thinking or fighting sleep and have me flipping pages furiously like I was reading the most riveting adventure?

I don't know what kind of mind a writer has to have to pull something like that off.

I was so hooked into Johnny's mind and so moved by his plight to communicate and then so horrified, too.

I mean... this book isn't for the weak of heart. It's a terrible tale. And yet, though the whole story revolves around war, death, wounds, blood, grief, loss and paralysis, it's also one of the most powerful homages to life I've ever read. That's the paradox.

There are such beautiful passages in the book when Johnny remembers his ordinary but so precious life in Colorado with his family and his friends or girl and in those parts, Trumbo becomes almost Proustian in his attention to detail. You can taste and smell the jams and bread Johnny's mother use to make. Every memory is so vividly recounted that you begin to think of your own ordinary memories and travel down your own life and then that's where Trumbo gets you.

You finish this bleak and sorrowful book with an immense gratitude. You are not Johnny and life is so good.
Profile Image for Nigeyb.
1,212 reviews266 followers
January 2, 2016
Unforgettable: one of the most original, clever and powerful novels I’ve ever read

Johnny Got His Gun was first published on 3 September 1939, two days after Germany invaded Poland, and is about a 20-year-old American infantryman Joe Bonham who suffers a direct hit from a German shell in the last days of the Great War. Unsurprisingly, its powerful anti-war message also had a profound effect on Americans during the Vietnam era.

Dalton Trumbo conveys this anti-war message across 20 short chapters, each explores a different aspect of Joe’s life before the war, or his thoughts on his current predicament. As his thoughts become more lucid, he realises he has been left deaf, dumb and blind and that all four of his limbs have subsequently been amputated. His face has also been disfigured and is covered by a mask to avoid distressing the hospital staff.

Dalton Trumbo was also a screenwriter and he was later blacklisted and jailed for being a Communist. His political views are to the fore in this convincing argument for peace and cooperation, and against the futility and waste of war. War is explained as "us" versus "them": "us" being the working classes and “them" being those with money who do not do any fighting but whose interests are served by war. Joe also muses on the abstract, nebulous language that is used to justify war - democracy, freedom, liberty etc.

For all the arguments in favour of pacifism it is when Joe is musing on aspects of his life before the war that this book really succeeds. Most of these memories involve moments of loss for Joe, and these mirror the physical losses that Joe has sustained.

Johnny Got His Gun is one of the most original, clever and powerful novels I’ve ever read. It’s a little uneven in places but overall it’s unforgettable, and rightly regarded as classic American literature.

Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
May 25, 2022
Many powerful anti-war poems stories, novels, memoirs, and histories exist, but maybe none are as powerfully horrific as Johnny Got His Gun, the story of eighteen-year-old Joe Bonham, who fought for the Americans in WWI and was so badly injured that he lost all of his limbs and all of his senses. It was written by Dalton Trumbo, inspired in part by the true story of a Canadian soldier who was damaged in much the way Joe is depicted in the novel from a mortar shell. It was published in 1939 and was awarded a National Book Award, and soon after Pearl Harbor, was banned as anti-American, surely a discouragement to the military recruitment efforts, and Trumbo was later blacklisted as a Communist.

The novel is told from Joe’s perspective--his rage and despair from his condition, the denial of his right-to-die, his fond memories of his parents and the girlfriend he left behind, and some war memories. Early on it is especially difficult to read, but there would seem to be moments of a kind of hope as Joe--after a number of years--begins to communicate to the medical personnel through SOS. He wants “out” in order to “work,” perhaps in a “freak show” in a carnival as a warning to other young men about the perils of war, but of course the military could never allow this.

Tom Cruise will be the military hero of the summer again in his return to Top Gun, but I am certain he was not popular to the military when he acted in the role of Ron Kovic in the film version of Kovic’s book, Born on the Fourth of July. Kovic was paralyzed from the chest down in Vietnam, became an anti-war activist. He and the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq write fiery introductions to this edition of the book.

The title of the book is a play on a military rallying cry for recruiting poor and working-class children (eighteen-year-olds I will call children here) to fight rich men’s wars for reasons sometimes so vague and misleading or duplicitous to be criminal, given the cost in deaths, property destruction and injuries (many many amputees): “Johnny get your gun!”

Our former President of the United States of America Donald Trump did not want to visit a cemetery in Europe to honor American dead; as he said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” He said a similar thing about the former Senator John McCain, who spent more than five years imprisoned in Vietnam when he had served in the military there: “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said in 2015 while running for the Republican nomination for president. “I like people who weren’t captured.”

When he visited the grave of 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, who died in Afghanistan, the son of his chief of staff, John Kelly, Trump said to Kelly, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?”

But in a strange way, Trumbo and Trump might have agreed that no one should fight in wars. Trump certainly had the background to figure out how not to serve. I felt the Vietnam War was a criminal mistake, and I protested against it--I suggest you see the PBS documentary series on Vietnam by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick to help you make up your own mind--but the war ended before I was to serve.

It is a book of angry rants, rather melodramatic as one might expect from someone who is in this condition. I had a hard time rereading this book, which I read in the late sixties as many did then. Here’s a taste of one of the rants:

“Of course a lot of guys were ashamed. Somebody said let's go out and fight for liberty and so they went out and got killed without ever once thinking of liberty. And what kind of liberty were they fighting for anyway? How much liberty and whose kind of liberty? Were they fighting for the liberty of eating free ice cream cones all their lives or for the liberty of robbing anybody they pleased whenever they wanted to or what? You tell a man he can't rob and you take away some of his liberty. You've got to. What the hell does liberty mean anyhow? It's a word like house or table or any other word. Only it's a special kind of word. A guy says house and he can point to a house to prove it. But a guy says come on let's fight for liberty and he can't show you liberty. He can't prove the thing he's talking about so how in the hell can he be telling you to fight for it? No sir anybody who went out and got into the front line trenches to fight for liberty was a goddamn fool and the guy who got him there was a liar.”
Profile Image for Meike.
1,518 reviews2,464 followers
June 14, 2018
If you want to read a really good book about WW I - why young people decided to sign up for it, what it was like at the front, and what the war did to people - read Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, because Trumbo will tell you pretty much nothing about it. Honestly, I am pretty astounded that so many reviewers describe Trumbo's tale as a story about the atrocities of war, because it talks about the protagonist's life before the war (mainly about his family, friends, and girlfriend) and after the war, as an invalid in a hospital bed. It does hardly talk about him actually fighting in the war.

Instead of showing what actually happened at the front, Trumbo lets Joe ramble in his hospital bed, and his statements are not only abstract and simplistic, some of them are plain stupid. E.g., Joe finds that before doing something, like going to war, you should ask "What's in it for me?", and that people shouldn't hold on to concepts like "liberty" because it's nothing you can touch. America, you know I love you, but these conclusions can only be drawn in a country in which Ayn Rand is considered a philosopher (just ask John Oliver: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8m8c...). Unsurprisingly (but somehow consequentially), Trumbo only talks about ONE soldier, and him alone, not the others he was fighting with and against.

And I have another issue with this book: Its main strategy to discredit war is to show a young soldier who has lost all of his limbs and his face. He is now entrapped in his own body, so badly marred and wounded that he is displayed as a medical wonder because he isn't dead yet - there is a freak show aspect to it, and it's completely unnecessary. Plus, this aspect makes you wonder about the merits of modern medicine, which is an important topic, but secondary when you want to discuss WW I.

Everybody should study how WW I happened, why people in different countries joined the armed forces, what it was like at the front, and what the war did to people, both physically and emotionally. But Trumbo only says: In a war, young people die, and dying is bad. I agree, Trumbo, but I don't need to read a damn book to know that. If your aim is to show the atrocities of war, it's not good enough to put on a freak show and give out some dubious and/or shallow paroles.

Just read Erich Maria Remarque instead (my review).
Profile Image for Nick Jonick.
25 reviews15 followers
February 24, 2017
Ενα βιβλιο πραγματική γροθιά στο στομάχι!
Ενας Αμερικανος στρατιώτης του Α' παγκοσμιου πολέμου μένει χωρις άκρα, φωνή, ακοή, όραση και όσφρηση. Οι γιατροί τον κρατούν ζωντανό σε ένα δωματιο ενώ αυτός αναπολεί στιγμές της ζωής του.
Ενας εξαιρετικός συγγραφεας, ο Ντάλτον Τράμπο, γραφει ένα βαθιά ανθρώπινο, αντιπολεμικό, υπαρξιακό μυθιστορημα.
Συγκλονιστικό, θα μου μείνει αξέχαστο.


Now the world is gone, I’m just one
Oh God, help me Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please, God, help me

Imprisoning me
All that I see
Absolute horror
I cannot live
I cannot die
Trapped in myself
Body my holding cell

Has taken my sight
Taken my speech
Taken my hearing
Taken my arms
Taken my legs
Taken my soul
Left me with life in hell
Profile Image for Paul Falk.
Author 9 books128 followers
July 16, 2017
In remorseful detail, the author guided me on a sorrowful journey through the despicable ravages of war. In particular, I witnessed an up-close-and-personal visit with one of it's many casualties in a unique writing style I had not experienced before. It was a narrative that yearned to be heard.

1918 was not a good year in America to be a healthy male between the ages of 18 and 26. America was in the throes of the Great War. To meet the costly demand, bodies were desperately needed. It was time for our uncle to step in.

Unfortunately, luck had not been kind to Joe Bonham. At the ripe age of nineteen, his number for the draft had been called. Just when life couldn't have been any better - a down-to-earth home life, a loving sweetheart and a satisfying job to round things out. Livin' the dream. Shattered.

After four months of cursory training, He found himself in France with the rank and file doughboys. He had survived there almost a year until one fateful day had finally arrived. His life as he had known, as he adored it, had taken a drastic turn for the worse.

Confined to only the boundaries of his mind after a bomb had blown him to smithereens, Joe struggled to find meaning to his loathsome existence. What to do, where to start, when all four limbs had been lost and only half a face remained. Once whole, now reduced to a mere slab of meat. Meat with a brain. Thinking...

We sing praises to those lives lost in war yet we seem to forget through many generations the countless victims who return not whole. It serves as a reminder for all to see the outcome of deadly conflict. Those sad reminders can't be swept under the carpet.

To those returning from war, they find that their home, their Shale City is not the same. In a sense, they are strangers no matter where they go. They always will be. Outsiders looking in. In the end, there's no one available to assemble the broken pieces.
Profile Image for Julie.
554 reviews276 followers
November 25, 2017
This is a re-read -- after a number of decades -- because I wanted to see how it stacked up, in the end, against Sebastian Barry's A Long Long Way. Trumbo's novel had been the exemplar for all anti-war novels, in my mind, until I read Barry's work a few weeks ago and he redefined my perception of excellence in this genre.

Joe Bonham is what Willie Dunne might have become, it struck me, as I was re-reading Johnny if he had not succumbed fatally to that final shell impact. There's the same strong rhythm of agony and torment driven by the complexity of damnation and hope in the face of eventual, and assured, death. The layers of complexity are so intricately layered, that you move from anguish to relief simultaneously in the same paragraph, sometimes in the same thought. It really is possible, in the end, to hold two thoughts in your mind, at the same time, with equal intensity, and not become completely mad: that is the the anguish of war. To want to fight, and defend, and stand true to one's principles; and equally, to want to run like hell and find a rabbit hole, and never come out. Both Trumbo and Barry achieve this complicated equilibrium and never let up.

Trumbo's anguish is more punchy and didactic, much like the assured rhythm of a machine gun, delivering bursts of energy and fatal information all in one. Barry on the other hand, is more operatic where the orchestra sometimes slows, but never stops completely, and then moves on to new crescendoes.

Both are dazzling works of invention that dance so close to the truth it is indistinguishable from it; both deliver the same message, that war is hell and why do we do it; both are vital and indispensable works against the Great War Machine.
Profile Image for Pink.
537 reviews498 followers
February 15, 2016
Great novel, with a message I completely agree with. WAR IS BAD. It did get just a little tedious at times and I didn't think the flashbacks and digressions added anything. Otherwise it was all good. Apart from the war. War is bad.
Profile Image for Άννα Μακρή.
Author 2 books28 followers
February 9, 2017
Εντάξει, τι να πω γι' αυτό το βιβλίο; Παρά τις δεκαετίες που έχουν περάσει από τότε που το διάβασα, παραμένει ένα από τα σημαντικότερα πράγματα που έχω διαβάσει. Μιλάμε για μετεωρίτη.
Έχετε φανταστεί πώς θα ήταν να ζούσατ�� παγιδευμένοι μέσα στο κεφάλι σας, και μόνο εκεί, όπου η κάθε σκέψη, συναίσθημα, ανάμνηση, φόβος, η κάθε λαχτάρα και η κάθε στιγμή να κρατούν μία αιωνιότητα, χωρίς να έρχεται κανείς να σας σώσει, να σας ξυπνήσει από τον εφιάλτη; (Πω πω, και μόνο που θυμάμαι το βιβλίο για να γράψω αυτές τις γραμμές, με πιάνει σύγκρυο και πλάκωμα στο στήθος).
Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,180 followers
June 22, 2021
Johnny Got His Gun was published at an awkward moment: 1939, on the eve of the Second World War. As the author says, it is probably the last anti-war novel about World War I to hit the market, and its timing could hardly have been worse. Observing that this war—against fascism—was quite different from the pointless bloodbath of a generation earlier, Trumbo himself urged his publisher to stop publishing it, and even reported some of the book’s early fans (Nazi sympathizers, apparently) to the FBI. This decision—which he came to regret—is especially ironic, considering that Trumbo soon found himself in the crosshairs of the American government for his political sympathies.

In any case, Trumbo’s book eventually found its proper audience, and it is now regarded as one of the great anti-war books. Unfortunately, it was not to my liking. But let me explain it. The story centers on a soldier who had his arms, legs, ears, eyes, mouth, and nose blasted off; he is therefore completely cut off from the world. The book then alternates between flashbacks from the protagonist’s life (he’s a simple country boy, mostly), and his attempts to come to terms with his current predicament.

My main criticism of the book is that it was too focused on this central conceit—what would it be like to have no limbs and virtually no senses?—so that the anti-war message seemed shoe-horned in. In other words, I did not feel that all of the parts were working together towards a coherent goal. Some of the flashbacks were touching, but many others were simply distracting. There is an episode about a Puerto Rican working at a bakery, for exsaple, that did not even focus on the protagonist. At other times, Trumbo gets very focused on the mechanics of his imaginative experiment, detailing how a person in such a predicament might, say, keep track of time. The anti-war message comes as a kind of sermon inserted randomly into the book. Most puzzling, the book has no scenes of the protagonist actually serving in the military.

As you can tell, I was fairly unimpressed with the performance. All Quiet on the Western Front is, for me, an infinitely better book—and one which, at least, actually depicts the horrors of fighting in a war.
Profile Image for kaiielle.
79 reviews26 followers
May 11, 2021
Now that the war is through with me
I'm waking up, I cannot see
That there is not much left of me
Nothing is real but pain now
Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please, God, wake me
Imprisoning me
All that I see
Absolute horror
I cannot live
I cannot die
Trapped in myself
Body my holding cell
Has taken my sight
Taken my speech
Taken my hearing
Taken my arms
Taken my legs
Taken my soul
Left me with life in hell

The famous lyrics from Metallica's "One" from the perspective of Joe Bonham, wounded soldier who was blown nearly to smithereens by a landmine during World War I. He has lost both of his legs, both of his arms, his ears, and his entire face and still managed to survive, with nothing but his own mind to keep him company. Metallica wrote the song based on the book and used clips from the 1971 film Johnny Got His Gun for the music video. Fun fact: Metallica actually bought the rights to the film so they could keep showing the music video without paying royalties.

I want to say that I absolutely loved this book, but "love" is such a weird word to use in this situation because this novel is horrifying. I can't love the casualties of war. I can't love the situation that Joe is in. I can't love that only a few years after this book was written and published, World War II happened. I can't love the awful that is war.

The one thing I can love is Dalton Trumbo's phenomenal writing throughout this entire novel and his ability to make you feel all the feels for Joe Bonham. I can also love his ability to make you either question how you feel about war or confirm what you already felt about it. I have read that people became pacifist's after reading this novel, so I'm not the only one that thinks it's powerful as heck. The way Trumbo wrote this book is very interesting. He used a third-person narrative combined with a "stream of consciousness" style of writing. This is a cool combination because even though we spend the entire novel inside Joe's head, Joe never refers to himself as "I" - it's always "he". Perhaps this was done to make it even more obvious that Joe has no control over anything in his current situation because "I" is a lot more controlling than "he". If so, that is genius writing. The novel has long sentences, lots of repetition of certain words/phrases, and lack of punctuation to mimic real thoughts in a person's head, especially under moments of stress, anxiety, sheer joy, and happiness. For some people, these reasons may mean that they have a hard time reading this novel, though I would urge to please appreciate it for what it is as it is the best choice for this story. Personally, I loved the writing style and I don't think this novel would have had the same impact if it was written any other way.

If you think Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five is an amazing anti-war novel and you haven't read this one, you probably should. This book affected me way more than SF did. There were quite a few times where I had to stop reading, close the book and just sit there absorbing what I just read. You experience present Joe with his tasks of trying to figure out how to track time and communicate with his nurse, as well as his incredibly deep thoughts and reflections about the war and what has happened to him. You also experience his flashbacks to his life before the war. This book had it all. I am not ashamed to say that I balled my eyes out while reading Chapter 10. That chapter is the most powerful part of any book I have read in my life. In addition, I have "liked" a few of the best quotes from the book that will hopefully show up on this review.

I would rate this book more stars if I could. I feel like everyone on Earth should read this book; maybe wars wouldn't be a thing anymore if they did...
Profile Image for Dolceluna ♡.
1,090 reviews68 followers
August 5, 2017
Imprescindibile, sconvolgente, spiazzante, disturbante, scombussolante. Mi ha tormentata per giorni, ancora lo fa. Un libro che ti squarcia l’anima con una lama, uno schiaffo, un tuono nel cielo, un libro che ti mette a nudo di fronte a te stesso e di fronte al male del mondo, per certi versi un libro scomodo e pericoloso: non a caso, scritto nel 1939, fu ufficialmente messo al bando dopo Pearl Harbour e poi venne ristampato e andò a ruba sia durante la guerra di Corea che durante la guerra in Vietnam. E credo che tutti i libri proibiti nascondano un fascino nascosto, una verità dolorosa, un messaggio da insabbiare magari per quietare le nostre coscienze tanto indifferenti e per questo ancora più colpevoli: e qui, il messaggio centrale, la condanna alla guerra, inutile carneficina, e l’inno a un pacifismo integralmente credibile, è chiarissimo. Il protagonista di “E Johnny prese il fucile” è un ragazzo americano che, come tantissimi altri, è costretto a lasciare la famiglia, la fidanzata e la tranquillità della sua vita quotidiana, per arruolarsi nell’esercito americano durante la prima guerra mondiale, in virtù di quell’amore per la patria al quale tutto, con coraggio e onore, bisogna sacrificare…ebbene, si risveglia in un letto d’ospedale, ingabbiato in un corpo-prigione mutilato, svuotato dagli organi e col viso completamente maciullato: respira grazie a una serie di canne che gli entrano in corpo, è infermo e muto, e l’unica cosa che gli resta intatta, purtroppo, è il cervello. In questa terrificante condizione di coscienza, egli a posteriori riflette sulla sua condizione, su ciò che l’ha spinto a combattere e ricorda episodi sia della guerra e dei soldati compagni, sia della sua vita precedente, con una commozione capace di arrivare al lettore come un pugno allo stomaco. Il tono drammatico, lo stile poetico, la prosa che, con le ripetizioni studiate e la non casuale assenza di punteggiatura risulta compatta ed incisiva, insieme alla tragica storia narrata e al messaggio universale che racchiude, rendono questo libro IL Libro, quello che non bisognerebbe impazzire per cercare, quello che dovrebbe essere ovunque e alla portata di tutti per far capire quanto l’odio non conduca da nessuna parte, quanto la violenza della guerra sia inutile e quanto la sua ipocrisia sia una delle truffe più grosse al mondo, e quanto il valore della vita sia il bene supremo concesso su questa terra, bene che nessuna ideologia malata si può permettere di portar via. Questa volta non solo apprezzo il libro in sé, abile nell’emozionare e nel far riflettere il lettore, ma sposo anche appieno il pensiero dell’autore, e mi rendo felicemente conto di quanto, in certi momenti storici, abbia potuto recar fastidio a certi potenti. Questi sì che sono i libri che fanno la storia, catartici e coraggiosi. Dieci e lode.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,986 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.