Study Guide

Johnny Got His Gun Manipulation and Propaganda

By Dalton Trumbo

Manipulation and Propaganda

"Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feeling?" asked the British philosopher Bertrand Russell in 1930, long before it was definitively proven that haters gonna hate. Well, whatever the reason, propaganda certainly is successful with Joe, who may not be able to locate France on a map but who has certainly heard about how nasty those Germans are.

In Johnny Got His Gun, Joe's not happy that he was duped into fighting a war that has pretty much nothing to do with him; he now wants to show people what war is actually like and what its real costs are. Why was he manipulated to begin with?

Questions About Manipulation and Propaganda

  1. Before Joe actually encounters warfare, where do his notions of it come from?
  2. Where does Joe encounter propaganda? What form does propaganda take in the novel? Is it easily recognizable as propaganda?
  3. How well would you say Joe understands why World War I is actually being fought? How can you tell?
  4. What conclusions does Joe come to about why he was fed war propaganda? Who was feeding it to him?

Chew on This

In Joe's mind, pro-war propaganda is not something that only exists during wartime.

The cultural glorification of warfare that Joe hears and experiences on the day he leaves Los Angeles is the same thing as propaganda.

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