Study Guide

Johnny Got His Gun Society and Class

By Dalton Trumbo

Society and Class

So, who wants war, anyway?

One of the main anti-war stances of Johnny Got His Gun is that war is encouraged by class inequality. What the heck does that mean? It means that the working classes tend to be the ones who do most of the grunt work when it comes to war, and yet they don't actually profit by it. It also means that the big guys—those with power and money—can pretty much wage war whenever they want, because they're not the ones who are ever going to have to fight it.

Sounds kind of bleak, right? What does Trumbo want anyone to do about it?

The message at the end of the novel is essentially that the class situation needs to change if we want to prevent wars in the future. Trumbo's thinking big: he's saying that you can't deal with something as big as war without first dealing with the social conditions that make it possible.

The discussions of class in the novel might not always have a big shiny arrow pointing to them—but they're there.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. Why don't you think the discussion of class is more obvious in the novel?
  2. Who are the little guys? Why does Joe align himself with them?
  3. Who are the big guys? Are there multiple big guys?
  4. Do you think that class plays as big a role in war as Joe seems to think it does?

Chew on This

Joe's classification of the "big guys" and the "little guys" is ineffective because it oversimplifies the social situation.

By tying the issue of war to issues of society and class, Joe makes a convincing case about why the social system is flawed.

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