Study Guide

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk Broken Word Bubbles

By Ben Fountain

Broken Word Bubbles

Every now and then, Fountain chooses to depict the flood of admiration the Bravos get from patriotic well-wishers in weird, fragmented arrangement like what you see below.

"Was never in the military myself," the man confided, swaying, gesturing with his giant Starbucks, "but my granddaddy was at Pearl, he told me all the stories," and the man embarked on a rambling speech about war and God and country as Billy let go, let the words whirl and tumble around his brain

terrRist
freedom
evil
nina leven
nina leven
nina leven
troops
currj
support
sacrifice
Bush
values
God
(Begins.1-2)

Seems like a pretty deliberate thing to do to a text, right? We mean, try typing that out. It's a pain, formatting all the tabs and spaces, and figuring out the best way to phonetically represent a Texan saying "courage." Currj. Hmm. Close enough.

Arranging things in this way allows Fountain to show just how much Billy lets his mind wander during his various meet-and-greets. If a movie version of this scene, the old man's diatribe might be faded out into a vague buzzing, with only a few words gaining clarity, so that the viewer could recognize those words without losing focus on whatever Billy's supposed to be thinking.

Second, this arrangement shows how repetitive the well-wishers' adoration has become by the end of the tour. By turning words like "nina leven" and "troops" and "terrorist" into empty buzzwords, we can see how all meaning and relevance has been removed from these words by overuse.

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