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The relationship between a parent and child is a bond consisted of bliss and peril, trials and pain. In the passage “Johnny Got His Gun,” Dalton Trumbo seeks to reveal the most commonly faced struggle of the relationship between a son and his father, growing up. Through the use of point of view and syntax, Trumbo reveals the emotions of a young boy who tentatively starts to take his first steps away from childhood. Trumbo carefully uses each literary device in order to display the emotional separation of a son parting away from his father for the first time.
Trumbo’s use of third person point of view is a key factor that contributes to the overall nostalgic underlying themes depicted in this passage. By telling the tale in third person point of view, he is able to show an unbiased depiction of the scene, not shadowed by the character’s thoughts or emotions. In this way, everything that is told about the scene is an accurate depiction opposed to the interpretation of a specific character’s mind.
However, he makes a further choice to only tell the son’s thoughts. The son at the beginning of the story is shown to be anxious as he “sat in front of the fire and wondered just how he was going to tell him”. In addition, when the father agrees to allow the son to go out on his own to fish, the son has another emotional response as he “felt a lump in his throat as he thought that even as he was deserting his father for Bill Harper his father had volunteered his rod”.
The son’s emotional reactions to his father’s gestures are allowed to be part of the narration; however, the father’s thoughts are never shown, only his responses. To exemplify this point, when the son asks his father if he can go, “for a little while his father didn’t say anything. Then he said why sure go with Joe”. Trumbo’s choice to point of view reflects how a child is often anxious about growing up and leaving the house, but how a parent must never show how much this hurts them and let their child go. Trumbo then goes on to use a carful selection of details and syntax as to further add to his motif. The very fact that the story happens on a traditional father son camping trip is a very obvious indicator of their strong paternal bond. The initial description of the annual camping trip being “nine thousand feet high and covered with pine trees dotted with lakes” leaves a picturesque impression of the ideal camping trip. This is a slight nod to the son’s real age, as children tend to see things in their youth with this picturesque clarity most adults can no longer conjure.
The son is a child bridging into manhood, and the best place for this transformation to happen is in a place that best represents his bond to his father. As the son finally reveals to his father he wishes to go fishing with someone else, the father offers his one true prized possession, his fishing rod. This rod is then built up as to be this fantastical possession to his father, and the son thereby reflects that “His father’s rod was a very valuable one. It was perhaps the only extravagance his father had had his whole life…there was nothing his father treasured more”. This particular wording implies that the father is giving his son the tools he needs in which to be a man. In actuality the fishing rod is not the most important thing to the father, his son is. Thereby with entrusting his son to go out and fish for the first time without him, and giving him his fishing rod, metaphorically the father is handing over his son into manhood.
All children must grow up someday. The son knows that a change is taking place “he knew it was something that had to happen sometime. Yet he also knew that it was the end of something”. As the son begins to show the first signs of maturity, the father must do what every father eventually does, let their child go out on their own. Trumbo is able to use details, syntax, and point of view as the clay in which to model a story that most any parent or child can relate too. Due to Trumbo’s carefully crafted story the reader is able to see what a parent sees, a child ready to get up, take up their fishing rod, and walk go out for the first time alone.
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