Study Guide

Johnny Got His Gun Chapter 18

By Dalton Trumbo

Chapter 18

  • After he finishes thinking about Christmas, Joe decides that he really needs to keep trying this tapping thing with the new nurse. He taps slower to show her that there is a method to his madness and pauses after completing a signal. He senses that she's trying to figure it out.
  • The nurse starts to do things to see if it's what Joe wants. She touches the urinal to his body, and he shakes his head. She tries the bedpan. She tries leaving the blanket off him, and then putting another one on. After she tries everything she can think of, she just stands there, trying to understand.
  • Joe knows that it's either now or never. Joe starts to pray that he will be heard and not be a living dead man any longer.
  • The nurse taps on his forehead three times. She doesn't realize it, but she has just tapped the letter H is Morse code. Joe nods.
  • The nurse presses her hand to his forehead for a moment and then Joe feels her footsteps run out of the room. Joe feels like a man who has been released from his coffin.
  • Joe thinks about what a marvel the doctors will think he is when they realize that he can communicate, and he feels happier than he has ever felt in his entire life, in spite of his condition.
  • Joe imagines the nurse running through the hospital spreading the news. He thinks of himself as Lazarus (the Biblical one, not the German soldier from earlier) and imagines himself finally speaking for the dead.
  • Joe expects a crowd of people to come see him, but when the door opens again, it's only the nurse and the doctor.
  • Joe feels the heavy finger of the doctor tap out in Morse code: "WHAT DO YOU WANT."

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