Study Guide

Unbroken Suffering

By Laura Hillenbrand


[Louie] was a marked boy. Bullies, drawn by his oddity and hoping to goad him into uttering Italian curses, pelted him with rocks, taunted him, punched him, and kicked him. (1.1.27)

This isn't only sad, but it also serves as important foreshadowing for the similar treatment he'll receive in the Japanese POW camp. 

When the train doors slid open in New York, Louie felt as if he were walking into an inferno. It was the hottest summer on record in America, and New York was one of the hardest hit cities. (1.3.13)

We see many instances in the book of Louie's teen training paying off in the future. His experience during this New York City heat wave must help him build up some tolerance for the extreme weather conditions he'll face during the war. 

A lifetime of glory is worth a moment of pain. (1.4.20)

If Louie were a teen today, he'd probably have this tattooed on his neck. While in the war, this is basically his motto, although just <em>living, </em>even without the glory, is worth all the pain he goes through. 

[A coach] told Louie that some of his rival coaches were ordering their runners to sharpen their spikes and slash him. (1.5.10)

This actually happens. We thought the most painful part of trying to be a track star would be all the running, <em>not </em>the other runners.

Phil felt as if he were on fire. (3.14.1)

The men suffer so much while lost at sea, and the combination of sunburn and dehydration is almost deadly for Phil. 

The men grew thinner. Phil was gradually regaining his strength after his initial state of concussed exhaustion; Mac's body grew weaker, following his broken spirit. (3.14.45)

These guys can handle a lot, but this whole stranded-on-the-ocean business is unrelenting.

Their hunger dimmed, an ominous sign. They had reached the last stage of starvation. (3.16.34)

Salt sores. Sun burn. Shark attack. All of this pales in comparison to what starvation does to the men. It causes them to suffer physically <em>and </em>mentally.

[Louie's] diarrhea became explosive, and cramps doubled him over. (4.18.8)

There isn't a phrase in the English language that evokes suffering more than "explosive diarrhea." Louie and his fellow prisoners sometimes had to live with dysentery and other ailments for weeks at a time. 

The extremely low caloric intake and befouled food, coupled with the exertion of the forced exercise, put the men's lives in great danger. (4.19.40)

There isn't a single aspect of the Japanese POW camp that could be viewed as appealing in any way. 

[Louie] was condemned to crawl through the filth of a pig's sty, picking up feces with his bare hands, and cramming handfuls of the animal's feed into his mouth to save himself from starving to death. (4.28.45)

Sometimes the suffering Louie experiences is merely painful—and pain passes—but being forced into humiliating situations like this one isn't just painful, the damage to his dignity causes lasting emotional scars. 

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