1st and 2nd Hour
Unbroken - POWs Made Invisible?
Wars can be loud and visible or quiet and remote. Wars can affect each individual of an entire society, including soldiers and civilian. In Laura Hillenbrand’s novel, Unbroken, Louie Zamperini, just like all other Japanese POWs, is imprisoned and is denied basic human rights. Louie experiences efforts to make him and other POWs feel “invisible” through dehumanization and isolation in the Japanese camps in WWII, but resist these efforts.
Louie, even at a very young age, was a visible man. His rebellious ways as a child and then his athletic accomplishments always put him in the spotlight. He and other POWs experiences effort that will make them feel “invisible” by the Japanese. On page 179, Louie looks at himself in the mirror and only sees “a dead body breathing” Hillenbrand also mentions that “without dignity, identity is erase.” (183) The constant threats to their lives, starvation, and the beatings strip them of their identity to a point that will erase their dignity. They also didn’t register Louie with on the Red Cross roster, making him “invisible”. (240) This makes communication with the outside world impossible, since to the world and his family, Louie has vanished. The Bird also makes Louie really want to be invisible. “Louie try to conceal himself in groups of men” (241) The Bird becomes his worst nightmare that he actually wants to become invisible by hiding to avoid the officer’s inconsistent and cruel behavior. After thirteen months into imprisonment, Louie is declared dead by the U.S. military and becomes invisible.
Louie, however, does what he can do to resist the Japanese effort to make him “invisible.” Louie repeatedly defies the Bird every chance he gets. “Each time the Bird lunged for him, Louie found his hands drawing into fists.” (246) He doesn’t look into the Bird’s face when the Bird demanded him to do so. The Bird also tries to knock him down, but Louie only wobbled, he wouldn’t fall. He defies the Bird’s commands and refuses to show weakness.
Louie faces many experiences throughout WWII. Having to fly Super Man with 594 holes in it was already challenging enough. But then Green Hornet crashes and leaves him stranded in the ocean for 47 days with little provisions. After 47 days, he was captured and beaten by countless guards, the worst being the Bird. He had little food and water while being captured.
Hillenbrand’s title, Unbroken, reflects about Louie and his experiences. Even through intense pain and hardships, Louie holds on his last bits of dignity. The Bird constant beating did not break Louie and neither did anything else. Louie remains “unbroken” throughout his time as a Pacific POW and resist giving in.
During WWII, the prisoners of war in Japan undergo efforts made by the guard to make them “invisible” through dehumanization and isolation. Every prisoner becomes invisible some way to their families, country, or their community. Many of them lose friends and family connection during their time of incarceration, but perhaps the greatest loss to these people is the loss of dignity. As Hillenbrand wrote on page 183, “dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen.” Louie goes through deeply difficult experiences after the war, but his spirit is able to forgive and resist even through the tough circumstances. Louie was able to show resilience, determination, and had the agency to push through.