Adolescence is an important stage in a person’s life; it marks the transition from being a young boy who constantly yearns for the comfort and consolation of his father to a self-sufficient man ready to take on the world by himself. Dalton Trumbo’s novel, “Johnny Got His Gun”, reveals the rise in the maturation of a 15 year old son by having him leave his father for his friend Bill Harper to go fishing. By using nuances in the story such as selection of detail, point of view , and syntax, Trumbo subtly shows the archetypical coming of age rite of passage when the boy eagerly yet reluctantly leaves his father to go fishing with his friend.
It is established in the first paragraph that the son and the father have a closely knit relationship. They take annual camping trips into the wilderness where they would go fishing in the nearby lakes and enjoy the pristine beauty of nature. “and when they slept at night the roar of water from the streams which connected the lakes sounded in their ears all night long.”(8-11). This small detail may seem like an arbitrary description of the son’s experience around nature, but is included because the stream is symbolic of the father and son’s current relationship. Just as how a stream connects two bodies of water with its vivacious flow, the relationship between the two is direct, strong and close. Trumbo also purposely chose camping in the wilderness to further emphasize the intimacy that they share. Camping out in the woods is a way to cut out external distractions and people. It gives the two a chance for some bonding time. And even though they have “been coming to this place ever since he was seven”, the enthusiasm in the way the son describes his experience underscores the fact that he enjoys spending time with his father.
The author uses a third-person limited perspective to carry out the story. It seems that this story is more focused on the thoughts and feelings of the son. The reaction of the father to his son leaving to go fishing with a friend is not clearly mentioned in this passage. “He told his father no Bill hasn’t a rod. Well said his father why don’t you take my rod and let Bill use yours? I don’t want to go fishing tomorrow anyhow.” (37-40) The reader is unable to distinguish what the father is feeling at this moment. Could it be casual nonchalance? Or is the nonchalance masking a feeling of disappointment of his son preferring his friend over him? The syntax of this quote shows the detachment from the father’s perspective further helps emphasize that the story is centered on the son’s development into an independent person. There aren’t any words that would indicate a certain emotion felt by the father. As the story focuses back in on the son, he realizes that this fact is also true. “Yet [the son] also knew that it was the end of something. It was