Study Guide

Unbroken Drugs and Alcohol

By Laura Hillenbrand

Drugs and Alcohol

[Louie] began drinking one night when he was eight; he hid under the dinner table, snatched glasses of wine, drank them all dry, staggered outside, and fell into a rosebush. (1.1.13)

We're tempted to look at this two ways: alcoholism starting at an early age, or a kid just getting into trouble. Seeing what a troublemaker Louie is in general, we're settling on the latter interpretation of this event. 

In an automat, they discovered German beer. The serving size was a liter, which took Louie a good while to finish. (1.4.29)

Louie wasn't always a boozehound—before the war, he only drinks while he's having fun and playing pranks. 

And like everyone else, Louie and Phil drank. After a few beers, Louie said, it was possible to briefly forget dead friends. (2.8.42)

We honestly can't really blame them for drinking at this point, but this reliance on alcohol sets a bad precedent for men who survive the war and <em>still </em>have to remember all their dead friends. How else are they supposed to cope?

Back On Hawaii, [Louie] sunk into a cold torpor. He was irritable and withdrawn. Phil, too, was off-kilter, drinking a few too many, seeming not himself. (2.10.29)

As the war progresses, the drinking gets worse, and it's only understandable that Phil would lose himself in the bottle after having a near-death experience in the <em>Super Man.</em>

Just before he left, Louie scribbled a note and left it on his footlocker, in which he kept his liquor-filled condiment jars. <em>If we're not back in a week, </em>it read, <em>help yourself to the booze. </em>(2.11.5)

The booze might just be Louie's most valuable possession. It's no surprise then that when Louie <em>does </em>go missing, so does the booze he left behind shortly thereafter. 

A conga line of crazy drunk POWs wrapped around the camp and through the barracks, and one partier did a striptease, flinging off his clothes to reveal an emphatically unattractive body. (4.32.5)

This is what happens when you drink too much: you end up in a conga line of emaciated POWs. If that isn't reason enough to quit, we don't know what is. 

All afternoon, drunken POWs staggered off the train, but the train didn't stop for them. They had to find their own way. (4.33.2)

After the war the men are so desperate to both forget and have a good time, that they'll take every opportunity they can to drink themselves into oblivion. 

Louie and Fred hit the town. Seemingly everyone they met wanted to take them somewhere, feed them, buy them drinks. (4.33.47)

These men are war heroes, and people want to find a way to show their appreciation. And what better way than booze? Maybe if they had bought Louie cheeseburgers, he would have been morbidly obese instead of having a chronic drinking problem. 

The alcohol had brought him a pleasant numbness. […] When the harsh push of memory ran through Louie, reaching for his flask became as easy slapping a swatter on a fly. (5.34.31)

It's hard for us to blame Louie for drinking so much. We just <em>read </em>about all the horrible things he lived through and we're already looking to forget a few chapters. 

One day Cynthia came home to find Louie gripping a squalling Cissy in his hands, shaking her. […] Appalled at himself, Louie went on bender after bender. (5.37.22)

Louie's alcoholism is a dangerous cycle. He gets so drunk that he shakes his own baby daughter, then to cope with this, he drinks even more. It spirals down from there.