Study Guide

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk Tone

By Ben Fountain

Tone

Bitter, Condescending

Most of our story consists of Billy Lynn being dissatisfied with everything. Texas Stadium is too shabby. The food there is terrible. The Lynn family is dysfunctional. Dad is a douchecanoe. The halftime show is triggering, the press conferences are tedious…you get the drift. So its no surprise that we think the narrator's tone is bitter and even a little condescending toward, well, just about everything.

Take a look:

No matter their age or station in life, Billy can't help but regard his fellow Americans as children. They are bold and proud and certain in the way of clever children blessed with too much self-esteem, and no amount of lecturing will enlighten them as to the state of pure sin toward which war inclines. He pities them, scorns them, loves them, hates them, these children. These boys and girls. These toddlers, these infants. Americans are children who must go somewhere else to grow up, and sometimes die. (Human Response.55)

We wouldn't have it any other way, of course. Billy is a 19-year-old kid who has just lost one of his best friends in battle in a war that has no clearly drawn enemies or even objectives. He's seen terrible things that have made him question not only his priorities in life, but also, more crucially, those of his fellow Americans. He's disillusioned—and somewhat helpless. So if he didn't come off as whiny and bitter, well, we might worry about him.