Study Guide

Unbroken Competition

By Laura Hillenbrand


[Louie] hated running, but the applause was intoxicating, and the prospect of more was just enough incentive to keep him marginally compliant. (1.2.5)

Louie isn't the type of person to run for fun and fitness in the morning listening to his iPod (you know, if iPods existed back then). He only runs for the thrill of victory. 

After [Louie] flew past the finish, rewriting the course record, he looked back up in the long straightaway. Not one of the other runners was even in view. Louie had won by more than a quarter of a mile. (1.2.17)

This line further characterizes Louie's competitive spirit. He doesn't watch the other runners (and not just because they're behind him, eating his dust). He wants to be the fastest <em>he </em>can be, and he doesn't care about anyone else. 

If the sharks were going to try to eat him, [Louie] was going to eat them. (3.16.9)

Sometimes Louie's competitive spirit reaches a ridiculous high, like here where the guy wants to compete with sharks in their own habitat. The craziest part of this is that he succeeds, and manages to kill a shark with his own bare hands. And a screwdriver.

Louie woke to a tremendous crash, stinging pain, and the sensation of weightlessness. His eyes snapped open and he realized that he, Mac, and Phil were airborne. […] Something had struck the bottom of the raft with awesome power. (3.16.19)

After Louie, Mac, and Phil manage to kill a shark, it seems like the leader of their group, a great white, takes revenge. Is it possible that the sharks are smart enough to play games, albeit games with life-or-death consequences, with the men?

Louie looked ahead at the Japanese runner and realized that he had it within himself to pass the man. (4.20.39)

Even as a POW, Louie doesn't lose his competitive spirit. The first time he's forced to race someone at the camp, he gathers all his energy and kicks the man's butt. 

Louie was ready to him [another runner] too, but before the race, the runner spoke to him kindly, in English, offering to give him a rice ball if he'd throw the race. (4.20.41)

This might be one of the harder things Louie has to do while he's POW, and that's including all the manual labor, malnutrition, and torture. He has to swallow his pride and his competitive spirit in order to throw a race. 

At the work sites, Omori's POWs were waging a guerilla war. At the railyards and docks, they switched mailing labels, rewrote delivery addresses, and changed the labeling on boxcars, sending tons of good to the wrong destinations. (4.24.14)

The men turn sabotage into a game, not just to pass the time, but to boost their own morale and restore some of their dignity. 

"It's finished," [Louie] said, his voice sharp. "I'll never run again." (4.33.23)

This is a sad moment for Louie, who has to admit to quitting an athletic activity he loves. Up until the war, competition was his life, and now Louie's not sure how he'll go on without it. 

Louie's bad leg felt passably sound, and he finally felt healthy. He began testing himself with long hikes, borrowing a dog for company. The leg felt sturdy, the body strong. July of '48 was more than two years away. Louie began training. (5.34.47)

After the end of the war, Louie feels like his competitive nature isn't just his best quality—he feels like it's his <em>only </em>quality. He doesn't know which career path to go down, so he returns to competition. 

Running wasn't the same. Once he had felt liberated by it; now it felt forced. (5.35.22)

Continuing from the last quote, competition just isn't the same to Louie anymore. Why do you think this is? Could it be that in his college days, running gave him a high, but after the war, he can't ever feel an adrenaline rush like <em>that </em>again? 

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...