Study Guide

Johnny Got His Gun Chapter 2

By Dalton Trumbo

Chapter 2

  • Joe remembers his mother singing in the kitchen, and he gives us some mouth-watering descriptions of her canned preserves and fresh bread.
  • We're back in Shale City, Colorado, which means that we're reading about Joe's early childhood.
  • Joe recalls a man who used to sell hamburgers. Joe and his family had a ritual of eating hamburgers on Saturday.
  • The next memory is of the first snow falling each year; then we jump to flowers blooming in the spring, and children picking bouquets.
  • Things begin to shift a little when Joe recalls a visit from Lincoln Beachey, the aviator. Everyone in town is impressed by the fact that airplanes exist, and the school superintendent makes a speech about how airplanes will shorten the distance between nations and therefore usher in an era of peace. Later in time, Lincoln Beachey died in a plane crash.
  • Joe remembers how on his birthday, his father would take him and his friends to see a movie (which would have been a big freakin' deal at the time).
  • Joe thinks about the county fair and the carnival, and all the sensory experiences attached to the memory.
  • Joe moves on from childhood to think about his adolescence: talking about girls with his friends, taking girls on dates, buying shirts and cars to impress girls… all things of the highest degree of importance.
  • All of this is sort of like the early-20th-century adolescent boy version of Eat, Pray, Love.
  • Then Joe does some more adult-y things: he learns how to smoke a cigarette, he goes to bars, and— most importantly—he hears people talking politics. This is Joe's first exposure to international conflict, and his understanding of it is dictated by what everyone around him is saying.
  • Then Joe's family moves from Colorado to Los Angeles, and the war begins. Like those around him, Joe hears about atrocities and thinks that the war is very important.
  • As the chapter ends, Joe, now back in the present, goes into a soliloquy about how he never really understood the conflict, which had nothing to do with his life.

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