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Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: a Story of Hardship

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When reading the book unbroken, it is based on about during the time of a World War Two Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. They base it about a boy named Louis Zampernini. When people take a first glance at the book they may think it is just about the struggles one man went through in a lifetime but it is much more than that. You connect with the main character and you begin to relate with the whole book itself. If anything, the novel is not just a bunch of facts and events put together but it also introduces a story that contrasts to Seabiscuit’s adventures. Both Seabiscuit and myself would reflect and relate to some of the struggles that the author has included. When reading this biography the reader is able to understand the way that Unbroken shows the hardship, positive emotions that seem to prevail from the story.

​Laura Hillenbrand has repeated in various occasions that Louis Zamperini not only has a defiant personality but is also a survivor. The author introduces this theme from the very beginning when 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). As Louis grows older and more conscientious of how the world truly is he becomes more of a hooligan. First, he noticed that Americans that he has been living with do not want to accept his Italian family inside their communities. Then, when he gets put in the juvenile delinquencies for the things he committed it is also because of his ethnic background and social status which was a major factor as to why he got put into juvenile detention. Later, as he starts to pick up more fights with other boys in his town that would lead to him getting money.

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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). Up until he was ten years old, Louie’s appearance had made him a major target for bullies who took advantage of how he wouldn’t defend himself. However, all that changed one day when his father who once was a boxer, taught the boy to fight back with technique. He soon caught on and become well trained to defend himself. At a young age his determination to grow from a boy who used to try to buy bullies with lunch then turning into a self determined and a wild tempered one had frustrated Louie’s parents. His mother knew him like the back of her hand and was trying to change her boy back from being tremendous pain in her butt. This is the type of behavior that will give people an impression of a troubled boy that his parents had failed in getting their son an education who would end up a felon in the end.

Hillenbrand is careful in how she directs the perception upon Louie. She creates an image for the readers, of a boy who feels that his only way to survive in a world that is growing around him is for him to exceed the limits of being behaved and rebel. Louie’s rebellion leads one to believe that he will become a menace to society. He acts out of an evil intention but still resembles himself to thirteen years old Huckleberry Finn who has a hard time adjusting into society. Although Louie is a boy one would sympathize with, his temper would reveal something that is special about him and 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. Since from the beginning was given that his first year on the track brought more disappointment than success.

However, the 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 a common expectation that biographies, would reveal intriguing and exceptional stories, because of their fascinating insights, descriptive personalities, and experience. When these elements are found altogether, one can only surrender to the captivating cobweb of life lines. As the author Hillenbrand captures Louie and his companions afloat at sea, survival is once again pictured as a resulting process of how a boy is faced into defying natural law and death. And we can once again catch a slight glimpse into Louie’s experiences and demeanor as a child for the readers to understand how life was like growing up the era of the Great Depression could change him. Where in a time when many people had nothing to rely one, many families were disbanded and food was running low, also many had went down with the tide that overcame them or thrived on despite the hardship. However, from this moment on, we are not just witnesses of Louie’s perseverance but also a witness of his companions that are afloat with him, and later on soon to be prisoners at the same camp.

Hillenbrand then draws the conversations on 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 to show is being able for her to extend the theme of survival from Louie to the other prisoners around him. For an example, 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 with CFIDS, it’s the story of your life, to get up and gird yourself for each and every day.″ (Giuliucci, 2001, ″A matter of dignity″) As someone who spent seven years working on yet another novel that further challenged her health abilities, it is no wonder Hillenbrand found herself attracted to Louis Zamperini’s life. After suffering tremendous hardship as a POW prisoner during the second war, Louie persevered and battled with aftermath haunting that is today commonly recognized as post traumatic stress disorder.

There are many literary accounts that reveal how soldiers and military operators dealt and perhaps some continue to do so with recurring thoughts following the war. For the majority, what Hillenbrand referred to as having to gird for each and every day is a fact and a necessity, as Louie also experienced. This is why the book offers a translucent tribute to one man’s defiance and determination to survive. This is a story that not just war heroes and those less famous soldiers can relate to but indeed one that dwells on the human’s spirit strength which, when all effort is put for survival, beams radiance and motivates.

While certain parts in the book are more difficult to digest like the description of POW camps and others may test one’s patience due to detailed expository similar to recounting small pieces of data in regards to Louis Zamperini’s running career, the book is sure not to betray the readers with unrealistic descriptions. Where the lack of insights prevails, Hillenbrand makes up for in powerful contrast of literary characteristics. And her words about the story condense its topic: ″The thing that this story offers is an example of how far a resilient will carry you…and that’s the thing that is resonating with people – they feel strengthened by knowing this story.″

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