When Surrounded By Degradation And Cruelty, The Ultimate Triumph Essay

When Surrounded By Degradation And Cruelty, The Ultimate Triumph Essay

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Sophie Dora Tulchin 9/14/14
AP US History Period 6 Book Review

When surrounded by degradation and cruelty, the ultimate triumph is to find dignity. Louis Zamperini’s life, as chronicled in the biography Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand, maps his remarkable journey towards the achievement of this goal. Even after spending 47 days without provisions on an inflatable raft, even after enduring the abuse of a sadist at prisoner-of-war camps, even after his body was reduced to a breathing skeleton, Louie’s spirit did not break. The impact of this powerful book is due, in part, to the talent of Hillenbrand in conveying Louie’s memories with both historical precision and cogent emotion. Hillenbrand’s text flows effortlessly, helping to buoy the reader through painfully detailed descriptions of unimaginable suffering towards the inspiring culmination of Zamperini’s story.
As a stunningly promising young runner, edging towards the goal of a four minute mile, Louie enjoyed a life so full of successes, he seemed invincible. But, while Louie raced in the 5,000-meter final at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the warning signs of World War II were already emerging in Hitler’s Germany. As Hillenbrand writes, “The atmosphere was surreal. Each time Hitler entered, the crowd jumped up with the Nazi salute[…]When a German athlete won, the stadium rang out with every stanza of ‘Deutschland über Alles’ and the spectators shouted ‘Sieg heil!’ endlessly, arms outstretched.” The coming war would pluck Louie from a place of athletic fame and drop him on a series of Army Air Force bases to train as a bombardier while the country prepared for war against Japan. After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor late in 1941, Louie became a key contributor to a seri...


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...hocked by the events as recounted by survivors to Hillenbrand. Equally as eye-opening were the ways in which war affected Louie’s life even after he returned home. To read about Louie nearly strangling his wife while in the throes of a dream about his sadistic tormentor, the Bird, was terrifying and brought the idea of post-traumatic stress disorder to the forefront of my mind in startling clarity. Throughout the book, I appreciated how Hillenbrand avoided the glorification of war and instead focused on honesty and the celebration of individual determination and valor. I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in the text, and weeks later, it still lingers in my mind. Considering the widespread success of Unbroken, I’m sure Hillenbrand has another book in the works. I look forward to reading it and enjoying, once again, an effortless fall into a truly magnificent story.

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