Joe Bonham, the narrator, is an "ordinary Joe" except for one distinction: his horrendous war injuries. Lying in a hospital bed with his body irreparably mutilated, Joe is isolated from all experience. He lives in his mind, and his narration expresses his thoughts and feelings. Joe is acutely aware that his injuries have left him in a limbo between life and death. He fights off impending insanity by exercising his mind and trying to connect to the world. As his thinking becomes sharper, he develops a political consciousness. He realizes ordinary guys like him are routinely tricked into battle to benefit the "big" guys who profit from war. Joe determines he must let the world see his body so they can understand the true consequences of war.