Johnny Got His Gun

By: Dalton Trumbo


The book Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo takes place During and after World War One inside Joe Bonham's mind. The book is a direct correlation of what goes on inside of Joe's head and how he feels. In the book Joe is a young soldier who loses his arms, legs and almost all of his senses except the ability to feel when he was hit in a trench bombing. In the hospital he aimlessly falls into thought and ponders much of his life not being able to communicate to the outside world. He goes back to the thoughts of his parents, friends, Shale City, and other important moments in his life. This leads to the main conflict in the book which is war, and what Joe thinks of the ideology behind war.


The book Johnny Got His Gun was written in 1938 by Dalton Trumbo. This book was a great read and was very hard to put down. There is so much going on in this book and so many great moments like when Joe first gets injured and him and his Army friends talk with Jesus. Or when Joe goes to work on the railroad but only stays for a day and the time when Jose tries to get fired at the baked goods factory. With the constant plot and setting changes it is still easy to read because everything is still tied back to the reality of Joe being in a hospital pondering his actions and the good / bad memories. I Personally loved the back and its story, there is so much conflict in this book that makes it a very interesting read. I also like that this book has a fable ending that is carried throughout the book with an aura type of feel.


Main Characters-

Joe Bonham- He is the Main Character throughout the story. He is also the narrator and protagonist in the story. The story is basically a reflection of what is going on in his mind, how he is feeling, and his philosophy or ideals on life and war. He is bedridden throughout the story after being blown apart in a bunker in WWI. He has no arms or legs and is without any senses besides feeling along his neck, forehead and hips.

Old Day Nurse- Is the nurse that takes care of Joe and is a constant figure of imagination in his mind. She is the nurse with "a heavy step" and is often a major key to many of Joe's connections to the outside world early in the story.

New Day Nurse- She is the Nurse that Joe considers very caring. She doesn't come along toward the end of the story. She seems to be very sympathetic with Joe and eventually makes the connection that Joe is trying to communicate to the outside world.

Joe's father, Bill Bonham- He is often Joe's voice of reason, he represents the value of people over things. When Joe has to make a decision it is often his dads voice that answers the question.

Secondary Characters-

Kareen- She is Joe's nineteen year old girlfriend who Joe obsesses over in his head while in coma. She gives Joe her ring when he leaves for war as a memory of her. Joe becomes very protective of this ring.

Kareen's father, Mike- He is a mean, thick minded old coal miner. He is always in a bad mood cussing everything he sees.

Bill Harper- Joe's best friend in Shale City, Colorado. Him and Joe are friends up until their late teens and then Joe does not inter react with him anymore.

Howie- Another kid that lives in shale city with Joe, they decide to work on a railroad section gang one summer to get their minds off things back home.

Diane- She was Joe's teenage love back in Shale City Colorado, she gets on Joe with the rich kid Glen Hogan.

Jose- A nice Puerto Rican man that works at the same baked goods factory as Joe in Los Angeles. Jose represents how hard work can lead to success also, how nice things can happen to nice people.

Macia Bonham- Joe's mom who would cook and leave pies in the window. She would sing often and was a major part in keeping the family happy in Joe's childhood. She Is often a childhood memory that appears in Joe's mind.

Favorite Passage

"He was a dead man with a mind that could still think. He knew all the answers that the dead knew and couldn't think about. He could speak for the dead because he was one of them. He was the first of all the soldiers who had died since the beginning of time who still had a brain left to think with." I like this passage from chapter ten in the book because it discusses Joe's whole situation in the book. His thought of how he is some kind of prophet because he is alive and dead in a way. Later on is also discuses how he hates to be the guy who has to live like this and how he doesn't wish it upon anyone to live in a prison between life and death. This passage really ads more complexity to Joe and I like that it emphasizes Joe's situation.

Cited Sources MLA Format

"Johnny Got His Gun and Metallica's "One"" YouTube. YouTube, 28 Apr. 2009. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. <>.


"Johnny Got His Gun: Extra Large Movie Poster Image - Internet Movie Poster Awards Gallery." Johnny Got His Gun: Extra Large Movie Poster Image - Internet Movie Poster Awards Gallery. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. <>.


"Metallica - One [Official Music Video]." YouTube. YouTube, 26 Oct. 2009. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. <>.


"Movie Trailer - 1971 - Johnny Got His Gun." YouTube. YouTube, 17 Jan. 2009. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. <>.


SparkNotes. SparkNotes, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. <>.


Popular Media Remakes and Renditions of the Book

Metallica - One [Official Music Video]
Johnny Got His Gun and Metallica's "One"
Movie Trailer - 1971 - Johnny Got His Gun