21st Century Literature discussion

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
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Nov 12 Billy Lynn Walk/Fountain > Billy Lynn... — Fourth Quarter and postgame discussion

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Daniel | 740 comments Mod
What are your final thoughts on the novel? We're assuming everyone has read the entire book at this point in the discussion, so any and all spoilers are fair game.


Deborah | 948 comments Mod
For me, the heart of this novel was the dialogue about being a soldier. There are all these contradictory truths about heroism and waste. Billy believes and perhaps correctly that the world holds no opportunity for him. He's encountered this dimension that those who have not scene combat lack. He is wise in many ways. And yet he is completely unprepared for civilian life. This is what I felt was the important part of this book. He doesn't want to go back and die. And yet he can't stay. This is echoed with the waiter they smoke with. Our youth go and die, not because of the righteousness of a cause, but because they have no better or even other opportunity.


Daniel | 740 comments Mod
Deborah wrote: "For me, the heart of this novel was the dialogue about being a soldier. There are all these contradictory truths about heroism and waste. Billy believes and perhaps correctly that the world holds n..."

True, and yet despite what seems like a lack of choice there is no acrimony or bitterness on the part of the soldiers. There's a fascinating dialectic between Billy's base survival instincts and the part of him that has become a true soldier. I was impressed that the book chose to portray these soldiers as men of conviction, while somehow still portraying that lack of opportunity that most likely funnelled them into the forces in the first place.

In a similar vein, one of the memes going around this Veterans/Remembrance/Armistice Day is: "I think that a man with a helmet defending his country should make more money than a man with a helmet defending a football." That's a much more crude and succinct way of putting it, but it seems like Billy Lynn is concerned with the same sense of misplaced values. Thoughts?


Deborah | 948 comments Mod
I disagree. I think there is some acrimony and bitterness. Not to the extent that it deters him from duty, or pride in duty, but I think that it's there.


Daniel | 740 comments Mod
@ Deborah: An excellent distinction, and point taken. Can we say that there might be a bitterness about their general situation in life, but they don't allow their civilian issues to affect their military life? I think my original sentiment is more that these soldiers don't whine or assign blame elsewhere. There's no sense of "why me?".

I think your point also speaks to the many narrative tensions that permeate the book. In trying to think of an example, I keep coming back to Billy's relationship with his father. Is Sergeant Dime perhaps the father he never had? And in terms of the medical bills being racked up, would we be wrong in seeing the army as an almost enviable escape from hard decisions? Even though we could argue that Billy was forced into the army, there seems to have been enough incentive that it wasn't an unwilling coercion. But a lot of that really just points back to the end of your original paragraph, doesn't it?


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