Unbroken Laura Hillenbrand, Report Show Book Read Book Report
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Following her first novel Seabiscuit, many awaited Laura Hillenbrand's second book with nothing less than eagerness and excitement. It will be however nine years after her first non-fiction account before Unbroken: A World War Two Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is released. Hillenbrand's life took a sudden turn just before her graduation from Kenyon College in Ohio when she fell ill with chronic fatigue syndrome, a disease that has kept her confined from living a normal life. She remains ensnared within the perimeters of her house in Glover Park, Washington which is from where she conducted research and eventually wrote Unbroken, the biographical novel about an Olympic runner whose World War Two experience reflects heroism in a sense of survival after his plane crashes in the Pacific Ocean and is captured and kept prisoner by the Japanese.
Considering that Louis Zamperini, the main character in Hillenbrand's novel, had already been the focus in three other books and was writing his memoirs when the latter first approached him, one would think not a lot had been left unsaid. Indeed, one would be hesitating and in fairness about reading yet another account of Zamperini but there is more and there is a difference in perspective that Hillenbrand was able to dig up, relate, and write upon. If anything, the novel is not a mere succession of facts and events but indeed introduces a story that appears to contrast Seabiscuit's adventures and moreover, what thriving is all about. That both Seabiscuit and Zamperini would reflect some of the struggles that the author herself has had to overcome throughout the years as she dealt with her own illness is also true. That a biography is able to rapture the reader the way Unbroken does is a merit that dignifies Hillenbrand more so as she is able to transport valuable literary characteristics in a non-fiction novel. And that, despite the hardship, positive emotions seem to prevail from the story, it can only have come about as the interrelation between the infamous Seabiscuit, Zamperini's determination, and Hillenbrand's ability and indeed style to transpose and transform life stories into epics.
Laura Hillenbrand has repeated in various occasions that Louis Zamperini, or Louie as she calls him in her book and whenever she speaks of either her character or the real life person, is a defiant and a survivor. Indeed, the author introduces this recurring theme right from the beginning as she describes Louie's tumultuous personality even as a small child, one who, at two years old, when he ?was down with pneumonia, he climbed out his bedroom window, descended one story, and went on a naked tear down the street with a policeman chasing him and a crowd watching in amazement. (Hillenbrand, 2010, p. 25) The defiance though only starts to prevail as Louis grows older and more conscientious of the order of things around him. First, as he feels first hand the reluctance of Americans to accept his Italian family inside their communities. Then, as he bursts into small time juvenile delinquencies to make up for the prejudices he was subjected to due to his ethnic background and social status. Later, as he decides to pick up fights with other boys in his town for which he received financial benefits. All these apparent and at the same time real problematic features, Hillenbrand reveals as ?artful dodging: She states that, ?confident that he was clever, resourceful, and bold enough to escape any predicament, he was almost incapable of discouragement. When history carried him into war, this resilient optimism would define him. (Hillenbrand, 2010, p. 29) Indeed, the author alludes to the boy's ability to defy those around him as the primary personality trait that would nurture subsequent life experiences. But Louie hadn't always presented such a volcanic personality. Up until ten years old, Louie's fragile appearance had made him a target for bullies who took advantage of his defenseless attitude. However, all that changed when his father, who had been a boxer, taught the boy to fight back which he did with every opportunity that presented itself. The determination to grow from a boy who used to try to buy bullies with lunch into a self determined and self appreciative wild tempered one frustrated Louie's parents as they had to make amends for
each of their child's action. This is the type of behavior that can lead to the impression of a troubled boy whose parents failed in educating and who would end up a felon in the end. But Hillenbrand is careful in how she directs the perception upon Louie. In this respect, she creates the image of a boy who feels that his only way to survive in the world around him is to break the limits of orderly and rebel. And Louie's rebellion leads one neither to the belief that he will become a menace to society nor that he acts against it out of evil intention but indeed resembles him to the thirteen years old Huckleberry Finn who, like Hillenbrand's hero, has a hard time adjusting into society. Thus, Louie is a boy one would sympathize with, as though his temper would reveal something that is special about him and that awaits to be discovered.
When attempting to dissect the thematic order of Laura Hillenbrand's novel, it is just as easy to do so sporadically as there are links that lead one to discover defiance and survival in each episode, but not necessarily in order. This is why Louie's childhood can be directly related to his time in the war. Resilience defines not just the title of the novel but the man behind the story as well. Louie's resilience resided in how he was able to attach himself to a silver lining whenever he faced difficult situations. As a growing teenager, he found that running kept him engaged and enthusiastic. When held in captivity by the Japanese following his plane crash, he relied on his faith for survival. Louie's transformation did not necessarily come as the result of him channeling his energy into running. Not since the beginning anyway given that his first year on the track brought more disappointment than success. However, a recovery process is said to take one two steps back while taken a step further. In Louie's case, it was all about stepping forward after that first year on the track. It was the same determination that had motivated him to stand up for himself as a child that urged him to exercise his running abilities further. That, and his brother's support. Hillenbrand combines this thematic blend of defiance, survival, and determination in a powerful outset that cannot prevent one from drawing some similarities upon her own life and ability to control her medical condition so as to defy its implications herself.
It is common expectation that biographies, although non-fiction writings, would reveal intriguing and exceptional stories, be there fascinating insights, descriptive personalities, or featured experience. When these elements are found altogether, one can only surrender to the captivating cobweb of life lines. As Hillenbrand captures Louie's and his companions afloat at sea, survival is once again pictured as a resulting process of defying natural law and death. And we can once again glimpse into Louie's experiences and demeanor as a child to understand how growing up the era of the Great Depression inoculated him with an attitude of perseverance. In a time when many people had nothing to rely one, families were disbanded and food was running low, many either went down with the tide or thrived despite the hardship. However, from this moment on, we are not merely witnesses of Louie's perseverance and defiance but of also his companions afloat with him and, later on, prisoners at the same camp. Hillenbrand draws on the conversations that ?were healing, pulling them out of their suffering and setting the future before them as a concrete thing. (2010, p. 210). The survival, Hillenbrand indirectly refers to, depended on the men's ability to reassure each other that they will pull through, despite the hardship. What Hillenbrand succeeds in doing is to extend the theme or survival from Louie to the other prisoners around him. As such, she pulls away for certain amounts of time from a biographical setting to focus on a general situation during World War Two which is how prisoners in POW camps dealt with their captivity and how some lost the fight while others were fortunate enough to resist.
CFIDS Association of America, an association with an informative and active focus on the chronic fatigue syndrome featured in one of its chronicles an article in regards to Seabiscuit. Hillenbrand revealed with the occasion how the book reflects some of her own struggles. She stated: This is a story of hardship. For me and everyone else…
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