[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
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irritable and withdrawn.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.