When Winston Churchill said "If you're going through hell, keep going," he might as well have been talking about Louie Zamperini, whose picture should come up every time someone Googles perseverance. If Laura Hillenbrand wrote "Louie went through hell," she would have been glossing over a lot, but she still would have been accurate.
In Unbroken, we see Louie survive crash landings, shark attacks, Japanese POW camps, and PTSD with a little luck and a heck of a lot of personal strength and tenacious determination.
Louie grows up in a time when perseverance was the natural fact of life. His parents persevered, living in a one-room shack with an outhouse, and they passed that tenacity onto their son.
Running requires a certain mentality, one that allows the runner to push himself for miles and miles. Without that runners' mentality, Louie probably would not have survived everything he had to suffer through during the war.
You probably don't need Unbroken to tell you this, but crash landing in the Pacific is not fun. Fending off shark attacks? Nope, not fun either. And neither is being forced to clean up a pig sty with your bare hands in a Japanese POW camp, or chronic alcoholism. Louie Zamperini's life sees a whole lot of suffering over the course of a few very long years. However, the book is called Unbroken, not Broken—so though Louie suffers, he doesn't let it keep him down.
The things Louie suffers through would be enough to break most people, but you read the title: Louie remains <em>Unbroken. </em>
The physical pain is terrible, but the emotional pain inflicts the most long-lasting damage on Louie. Telling his story is a way to alleviate that pain, and help others who are suffering through emotional strife of their own.
One of the most misguided ad campaigns in recent history is the U.S. Army's creation of the slogan "Army of One." Because do you know what happens to an army of one? He dies.
The people who survive at war are the ones who work together, the teams that manage to communicate with each other almost telepathically and who are teammates on the battlefield and friends in the barracks. In Unbroken, Louie's friendships aren't just fun—they keep him alive.
Although it may have been easier to deal with loss if Louie <em>didn't </em>form friendships with his crewmates, they likely wouldn't have survived without their close bonds.
Having friends enables Louie to keep his memories alive, both good and bad. They share common good memories, and are able to cope with the bad ones together.
Take a look at the cover of Unbroken.
Unbroken is less about the politics of war, however, and more about the horrors of war. Atrocities weren't just committed by the Japanese, and Louie often falls victim to mishaps caused by his very own country, the one he's sworn to protect. It feels like all is un-fair when it comes to war.
Some of the greatest atrocities of war are inflicted on Louie by his own country. He's forced to fly constantly, in planes that are shoddily constructed and lack proper emergency supplies. It's amazing his own country's shortcomings don't kill him.
Not everyone agrees with the war. Louie is befriended by some Japanese who put people before politics.
War is kind of a competition. Different teams fight each other for a variety of reasons, whether it's to claim resources, earn new territories, or resolve political differences. Louie is well equipped for war because of his innate competitive spirit (that's part of why the book is called Unbroken...a less equipped person's story would've required a different title). The same drive that pushes him across the finish line in his track days helps him stay in the race, so to speak, during the war. Like Buzz Lightyear, real competitors never give up, never surrender.
Louie's competitive drive goes hand-in-hand with his perseverance. It helps that he mainly competes with <em>himself, </em>to be the best he can be, rather than trying to be better than others.
To boost morale, the POWs subtly compete with each other to find out the craziest ways to rebel against their captors. Their competitive nature keeps them alive.
Even if it isn't Memorial Day (remembering men and women who died while serving) or Veterans Day (remembering all veterans), people almost always admire and respect war heroes. It's the least we can do for people who sacrifice so much for their country, and for causes they may or may not believe in.
In Unbroken, Louie spends a lot of his life searching for admiration, so all the accolades he receives after his miraculous survival must be rewarding indeed.
The accolades and awards Louie receives after the war help him recover the dignity he loses in the POW camps.
Even though Pete is relegated to BFF status, he deserves just as many awards and recognitions that Louie does, since he suffers through everything right alongside him.
War is pretty much a failure to communicate on a global scale. Men in power fail to make a peaceful compromise, and instead decide to sentence thousands of others to death to get they want. Miscommunication trickles down to the soldiers too. In Unbroken, English-speaking men are taken prisoner by Japanese-speaking soldiers, and their inability to talk to one another only builds tension that is already thick enough to cut with a butter knife.
It's difficult to have peace when the world doesn't speak a common language.
In the POW camps, the language gap is a double-edged sword. It serves as both a source of frustration and a method of rebellion.
Louie is often forbidden from speaking in the POW camps, so it's no wonder that he wants to tell his story when he gets out—he's making up for a couple years' lost time.
On television, from The Brady Bunch to Modern Family we often see families that all live together (and don't even have a toilet) or live in the same town. But the powerful thing about families is how they stay strong even when separated—and in Unbroken, the Zamperinis show incredible strength. They're able to survive a couple of troublemaking teenage boys, distance, death, and even war. Just like Louie, his family remains unbroken.
Louie's brother, Pete, is his biggest champion, and without Pete, Louie would never have grown into the man he becomes.
Louie creates his own family after returning from the war, which ends up being another wonderful support system for him as he recovers from his PTSD.
Liquor and war go together like, well, something kind of dangerous. Like cigarettes and chocolate milk or Double Stuf Oreos and anything.
Like any addiction, it starts out fun—just a little here and there to forget the pain. But eventually it becomes a way of life, and for Louie, his alcoholism is almost as damaging and dangerous as the things he experiences in the war that he's drinking in an effort to forget. Though he ultimately rallies himself to the straight and narrow, his alcoholism almost sees to it that this book get called Broken instead of Unbroken.
Louie often drinks to forget, but he's able to quit by <em>remembering</em>—remembering how strong and amazing he is, despite the bad things he went through.
Louie has to rely on alcohol because the military doesn't provide adequate mental health care to its veterans.