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Abstract

Despite being challenged by a debilitating chronic fatigue syndrome, Laura Hillenbrand is a renowned writer who has written the US’s bestsellers such as Seabiscuit and Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption. The latter tells an incredible and unforgettable story of Louie Zamperini, a former juvenile delinquent and a onetime excellent runner. Laura Hillenbrand looks at the life of Zamperini, and how he overcomes the hardships he finds himself in, in a thrilling manner.

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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption

The story begins as Hillenbrand presents an indiscipline person who starts his redemption from callous ways by choosing to use his talents (Hillenbrand, 2010). Zamperini is known for his misbehavior, and as the author states; he does not let anyone corral him. Zamperini comes from California where he is known as Torrance Tornado because his ability to run remarkably fast during his high school years. When he entered the high school, being a first generation American he spoke limited English. His quick fists are his line of defense against the cruel torments that his schoolmates laid upon him. When he finds no positive thing to associate with in school, he starts vandalism, petty theft and burglary in order to seek attention. Zamperini develops his ability as a runner during his escapades from the police and his victims. In fact, he set the fastest time in the interscholastic record for a mile in 1934.

This record lasts for years with nobody being able to overcome it. Because of his abilities, he receives a scholarship and gets admitted to the University of Southern California (Hillenbrand, 2010). Those interested in his career think of him as a person who is capable of beating the four-minute mile mark. As the author notes, Zamperini qualifies for the Olympic Games in 1936 to participate in the 5000 meter distance after having raced the distance only four times. However, his participation in the year 1936 does not win him any medal. However, he runs remarkably well and looks forward for the 1940 Olympics where he plans to participate in the 1500 meters race. However, his plans to participate in the Olympics are being cut short when the World War II brakes out, and the games have to be cancelled. Under the circumstances, he becomes a bombardier on a B24 bomber. (Hillenbrand, 2010)

As a matter of fact, Hillenbrand seems to be interested in the phenomenon of underdogs who are forced to struggle against extreme adversity, and Zamperini is a character who effectively does that. In fact, Zamperini comes out as the perfect character choice for Hillenbrand because he does not provide a story to write about, but he also offers personal experience by talking to Hillenbrand. This is a perfect writing approach as it gives the book an advantage of presenting facts, as opposed to a story relating to something that has been told by a second hand source.

Zamperini’s troubles and problems start again as the Second World War begins, and he joins the armed forces. Zamperini and his crew survive several combat missions. During one of his missions, his plane is being seriously damaged and brought down crashing at the sea. Zamperini survives together with two men drifting on their rafts for more than six weeks. One cannot imagine how Zamperini and his pilot survived in the sea for more than six weeks on a raft. They survived on a few chocolate bars for 47 days while in the Pacific. The ordeal they went through is terrifying as they have been exposed to cold, starvation, shark attack, an enemy aircraft, thirst and sensory deprivation. Eventually, they are picked up by the Japanese and held captive as prisoners of war. Despite being captured, his story as a prisoner of war does not end there. Zamperini and his pilot have horrible experiences in Japan. They are beaten, tortured and starved. In fact, Zamperini nearly dies of dysentery. However, he overcomes these difficulties again. (Hillenbrand 2010)

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Zamperini has been trained and ushered to the B-24 bomber, the most graceless jet fighter among the U.S World War II arsenal. Due to the difficulties and the toughness that Zamperini experienced during his childhood and teen years help him in a major way, in the battles with the Japanese, in the aerial attacks and on the ground. Zamperini is being assigned not to battle mission, but to a search and rescue mission that resulted in to the crash. This scene introduces another part of life for Zamperini. Zamperini and his Crew are looking for a possibly downed plane . After the plane had crashed into the Pacific Ocean, Zamperini’s effort to get into the two life rafts brought much help to the three survivors. (Hillenbrand, 2010)

Zamperini is shuttled in a series of hellish POW camps and endures two years of exposure to physical and psychological torture. A sadistic Jailor nicknamed “the Bird” singled Zamperini out for attention and subjected him to a campaign of abuse that was so severe to the extent that the effects of torture remained with him long after his liberation by the American army. When he returns to America, after being rescued by the American troops in August 1945, Zamperini experiences difficult years of suffering from physical and psychological injury. It is then that he finds out that he can no longer run because of the traumas he had suffered due to the merciless torture. However, Zamperini’s story is a captivating one. He again survives from PTSD and the physical and psychological suffering; however, alive. Hillenbrand’s book, Unbroken, is a biographical book that specifically looks at the suffering that the man goes through and how he manages to come out of those difficulties. To some extent, the story of Zamperini seems miraculous. It is unbelievable how he managed to survive the harrowing experiences he had during the war and after the war. (Hillenbrand, 2010)

Laura Hillenbrand wrote a page-turning biography. She managed to successfully put the life and accomplishments of Zamperini in a historical context explaining the technicality of bombers and Japanese culture with equal ease. (Hillenbrand, 2010) Pete Zamperini, who participated as cast in the book stated that people would say that he was a good boy; however, running was Louie’s salvation. Pete helped Louie get into the school track team.

The author also mentions that Zamperini comes from a poor family. (Hillenbrand 2010) The fact that he had lived in poverty provides certain hardships for him. For example, the author notes that were it not for the poor status he had Zamperini would have won medals out of his ability to run. Travelling in a ship headed for Europe together with other athletes who eat a lot Louie, who is used to deprivation and hunger, which millions of people experienced during the great depression, tries to benefit from an endless supply of food. Due to good nourishment Louie gains about 12 pounds. This brings him trouble because he becomes number eight in the track race. However, his finishing sprint is marvelous to the extent that it attracts the attention of the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler who wants to meet Louie. Louie agrees and shakes Hitler’s hand. Therefore, despite the fact that his poor state can bring him down, he manages to survive and get himself out of the shadows of being number eight to attract the admiration of the powerful Hitler. (Hillenbrand, 2010)

Laura Hillenbrand has woven various details that were gathered from survivors’ accounts, some imagined and some of a necessity into a gripping tale of history. (Hillenbrand, 2010) As a result, the book presents a gripping tale that captures the imagination of the reader. After Zamperini had come from Japan, his civilian life is hit by alcoholism. He becomes entangled into the obsession of revenge to his former guard, The Bird. The psychological torture of life in the bay, the war, the sea and the Japanese prisons hit him hard. The young Reverend Billy Graham brings a Hollywood-like salvation that helps Zamperini get back from alcoholism. (Hillenbrand, 2010)

Conclusion

In conclusion, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand presents a biographical analysis into the life of Louie Zamperini and his survival from several hardships he suffers from his childhood, his professional life as an athlete and army combatant and his later life as a civilian. The title Unbroken fits into the book and tells the audience what to expect. It presents the endurance of a man in the face of trials and hardships to come out unbroken. Hillenbrand congratulates Louie Zamperini’s defiance and irrepressible will and spirit to make him successful in the struggles he faces in his life.

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