Shenandoah and Johnny Got His Gun Compare and Contrast Essay The feeling of being a failure happens to most everyone, different situations can cause different reactions from all people alike. Many people create books on how to be successful and what to do to achieve it, but many question whether it really works outside of a bestseller list. Right along with books of success, are books of failure and the consequences that they carry. One of these books is the novel, Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo.
It follows the life of a young boy named Joe who is the main character, and goes to war and gets severely injured beyond repair. Although Joe is the protagonist, the sense of failure revolves around Bill, Joe’s dad. Joe’s dad feels like a failure because of his inability to buy in excess and his decisions have grave impacts on his family. Similarly, Charlie, in the 1965 Civil War movie, Shenandoah, follows the Anderson family, Charlie who is the dad also struggles with doing the right thing. He tries to help his family survive and become the best that they can according to what his deceased wife would have wanted.
Although the character differ between external and internal failure the attempt to gain success, impacts those around them, which shows that different situations and reasons, have separate consequences and that some failure is more consequential than others. Early on in the Novel of Johnny Got His Gun, you can most certainly tell that the Bonham family had a good life. They had their own farm and were better off than most people in their neighborhood, eating fried chicken was not a rarity in their household. They grew most of their food in their garden and would take smart approaches as to how the family spent their money.
When Joe reflects on his home life in Shale City Colorado, it is especially bright and happy which was important because Joe was at a very depressing time of his life. Joe revealed a very positive view of his father, right off the bat. His father, Bill, was a loved man by his friends, family, and wife. And yet he still felt like a failure on the inside. The first time the reader picked up on this recurring trend was when Joe starts to think about the fishing trip he took with his dad and Bill Harper. He needs to borrow his dad’s fishing pole so that Bill can borrow Joe’s.
They go fishing and up until the end, things were pretty good. On their way back they lose the pole when it gets a bite that pulls it into the water. Joe thinks that his father will be mad because it was an expensive fishing pole, that he usually takes very good care of and the pole was the only material thing that Bill could take pride in besides his family. Bill isn’t mad that they boys lost the pole, he is more mad at himself and the broader situation. They all know that Bill will never be able to buy a new pole as good as the one lost.
Joe’s father put his faith and feeling of success in a material item that he almost idolized and used to make himself feel better about the rough living situation that his family was in. His family however, they were happy with the life that they had, it was a type of obliviously happy lifestyle, that reality wasn’t able to take hold of. Joe’s dad attempted to become and feel more successful when they moved from Shale City to Los Angeles because he bought into the word that was traveling of a ‘get rich quick’ lifestyle. He was willing to move his family from their happy home because he didn’t feel successful enough.
Bill may not have even associated the move with the feeling of being a failure. But even Joe recognized that his father would not be able to keep up in the quicker and harder times. Joe also became more aware of the realities that they had been able to ignore. “There he became conscious for the first time about the war. ” (Trumbo, 23) The impact of the ideals of success and failure are much more far reaching than the immediate consequences, such as low income, that you would expect. Joe’s world was opened up to a whole new reality of possibilities, even after his father was in a grave.
Although Joe’s dad valued his family, his actions revealed the rivaling power of a materialistic lifestyle. Jose, another minor character in Johnny Got His Gun, was a good contrast to Bill and his misplaced values. Jose worked with Joe in a bakery. He showed the readers that money is only relevant if you want it to be. That money and success aren’t directly correlated, success is what you make of it. Jose wanted to quit his job at the bakery because he got a better job in a movie studio, but wasn’t sure how to tell his boss, who had been good to him when he needed a job the most.
Jose showed the aspect of how relational success is more important in some situations than personal gains. He respected his boss, Jody Simmons, and wanted to reciprocate that feeling into how he treated those around him. He ended up dumping pies, albeit probably not the same choices many would have made today, but he felt bad, and paid for the ruined pies with his paycheck. He wasn’t in the game of life for the purpose of living comfortably and having lots of money and by default hurting those around him, he was going to do it right and valued the right things, relationships not the products of those relationships.
Jose may not have been rich, but he was successful to his own standards and that was what mattered. Often men and women alike, equate success in different ways. With someone who is struggling financially, their definition of success will be something along the lines of being financially sound and able to provide for their family. Others, possibly stuck in the middle class, not poor but not filthy rich either, may find success in what they hope to achieve, their goal in life. Even if they can not fulfill it, the chase is what matters and some may be content with that, or find themselves chasing their tails.
The definition of success has three separate definitions: The accomplishment of an aim or purpose; The attainment of popularity or profit; A person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity. In Shenandoah, Charlie the father we learn right away, is a widower. His wife had died a few years previously, and he is now left with a household of sons and one daughter. Charlie loved his wife very much, and this is evident when he visits her grave often and talks to her.
Also he makes sure that they go to church every Sunday, even though he isn’t religious, because that’s what Martha, his wife, wanted. Most of what Charlie does is driven by his love for Martha, even in a time of vicious war. His reasons for feeling like a failure mainly come from his family. He has enough money, and they live comfortably on their five hundred acre land, so there isn’t a struggle to provide for his family. They are well taken care of. and yet Charlie let his family down. His wife died while having Boy, his youngest son, and he is partly responsible for her death.
He owes it to Martha to go to church even when he has no respect for those outside of his household, including the pastor and the Confederates. “They on our land?… Then it doesn’t concern us. ” (Shenandoah) Charlie’s objection to getting involved, eventually forces him to be involved. The actions he made in the beginning of the movie, impacted the outcome of the family and who lives in the end. He did not educate Boy well enough and Boy got caught with a Confederate cap on. Charlie went to go find Boy, leaving Ann and James behind unprotected and leading eventually to theirs and Jacob’s death as well.
While Charlie dealt with his internal failure as a father and protector, he also faces the opinion failure to his peers, as they look to his six able bodied sons who are not helping fight for the Confederate cause. He deals with external and internal failure, similar to Bill, Joe’s dad, when his own family thought he would not be able to keep up with modern pace. Both Bill and Charlie deal with the consequences of their decisions and how it affects their families. Mainly internal failures are placed upon their consciousness, but external is certainly present as well.
Although Bill died before anything horrific happened to his family due to his decisions, the reader becomes empathetic to his situation. They understand what it would be like to find out that they were the cause of their families troubles, when all Bill wanted to do was fix them. Similar with Charlie, all he wanted was to stay on his farm, with his family and live a happy life. But his actions and words comeback to bite him in the butt, when he loses many things held dear to him that makes him stand even stronger than before instead of becoming defeated when trouble hits, and backing down.