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Read the introduction of Johnny Got His Gun below. Provide a brief...

Read the introduction of Johnny Got His Gun below. Provide a brief summary of its main points. Next, tell whether or not it affects your reading of the novel, and why or why not. Do you think it might have affected your reading of the book had you read it before reading the book? Does it change or influence your reading of the book?


Introduction:

World War I began like a summer festival—all billowing skirts and golden epaulets.

Millions upon millions cheered from the sidewalks while plumed imperial highnesses,

serenities, field marshals and other such fools paraded through the capital cities of Europe

at the head of their shining legions.

It was a season of generosity; a time for boasts, bands, poems, songs, innocent

prayers. It was an August made palpitant and breathless by the pre-nuptial nights of

young gentlemen-officers and the girls they left permanently behind them. One of the

Highland regiments went over the top in its first battle behind forty kilted bagpipers,

skirling away for all they were worth—at machine guns.

Nine million corpses later, when the bands stopped and the serenities started running,

the wail of bagpipes would never again sound quite the same. It was the last of the

romantic wars; and Johnny Got His Gun was probably the last American novel written

about it before an entirely different affair called World War II got under way.

The book has a weird political history. Written in 1938 when pacifism was anathema

to the American left and most of the center, it went to the printers in the spring of 1939

and was published on September third—ten days after the Nazi-Soviet pact, two days

after the start of World War II.

Shortly thereafter, on the recommendation of Mr. Joseph Wharton Lippincott (who

felt it would stimulate sales), serial rights were sold to The Daily Worker of New York

City. For months thereafter the book was a rally point for the left.

After Pearl Harbor its subject matter seemed as inappropriate to the times as the

shriek of bagpipes. Mr. Paul Blanshard, speaking of army censorship in The Right to

Read (1955) says, "A few pro-Axis foreign-language magazines had been banned, as well

as three books, including Dalton Trumbo's pacifist novel Johnny Get Your Gun, produced

during the period of the Hitler-Stalin pact."

Since Mr. Blanshard fell into what I hope was unconscious error both as to the period

of the book's "production" and the title under which it was "produced," I can't place too

much faith in his story of its suppression. Certainly I was not informed of it; I received a

number of letters from service men overseas who had read it through Army libraries; and,

in 1945, I myself ran across a copy in Okinawa while fighting was still in progress.

If, however, it had been banned and I had known about it, I doubt that I should have

protested very loudly. There are times when it may be needful for certain private rights to

give way to the requirements of a larger public good. I know that's a dangerous thought,

and I shouldn't wish to carry it too far, but World War II was not a romantic war.

As the conflict deepened, and Johnny went out of print altogether, its unavailability

became a civil liberties issue with the extreme American right. Peace organizations and

"Mothers'" groups from all over the country showered me with fiercely sympathetic

letters denouncing Jews, Communists, New Dealers and international bankers, who had

suppressed my novel to intimidate millions of true Americans who demanded an

immediate negotiated peace.

My correspondents, a number of whom used elegant stationery and sported tidewater

addresses, maintained a network of communications that extended to the detention camps

of pro-Nazi internees. They pushed the price of the book above six dollars for a used

copy, which displeased me for a number of reasons, one of them fiscal. They proposed a

national rally for peace-now, with me as cheer leader; they promised (and delivered) a

letter campaign to pressure the publisher for a fresh edition.

Nothing could have convinced me so quickly that Johnny was exactly the sort of

book that shouldn't be reprinted until the war was at an end. The publishers agreed. At the

insistence of friends who felt my correspondents' efforts could adversely affect the war

effort, I foolishly reported their activities to the F. B. I. But when a beautifully matched

pair of investigators arrived at my house, their interest lay not in the letters but in me. I

have the feeling that it still does, and it serves me right.

After 1945, those two or three new editions which appeared found favor with the

general left, and apparently were completely ignored by everybody else, including all

those passionate war-time mothers. It was out of print again during the Korean War, at

which time I purchased the plates rather than have them sold to the Government for

conversion into munitions. And there the story ends, or begins.

Reading it once more after so many years, I've had to resist a nervous itch to touch it

up here, to change it there, to clarify, correct, elaborate, cut. After all, the book is twenty

years younger than I, and I have changed so much, and it hasn't. Or has it?

Is it possible for anything to resist change, even a mere commodity that can be

bought, buried, banned, damned, praised, or ignored for all the wrong reasons? Probably

not. Johnny held a different meaning for three different wars. Its present meaning is what

each reader conceives it to be, and each reader is gloriously different from every other

reader, and each is also changing.

I've let it remain as it was to see what it is.

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