Summary and Analysis
Part I Chapter 2: Run Like Mad
Pete, Louie’s older brother, decides to help Louie make something of himself. When Louie is 14 years old, Pete cajoles him into joining the track team at their high school. Pete forces Louie to train, and soon Louie, who has natural talent and speed, starts to win races. Under Pete’s coaching, Louie does almost nothing but run. By the time he is 16 years old, Louie is beating college athletes and winning track meets with regularity. Pete’s intervention works. Louie Zamperini gives up his “one-boy insurgency” and starts focusing on being a runner instead.
This chapter focuses on Louie’s first redemption, at the hands of Pete, his older brother. Using a combination of tough love and encouragement, Pete forces Louie to take up athletics—and gives his younger brother a new, redemptive purpose in life. He both challenges and helps Louie to excel, and shows Louie that he can be more than just another street kid destined to spend his life in prison. At first, Louie resists Pete’s efforts at redemption. “Louie dragged his feet,” Hillenbrand reports, “bellyached, and quit at the first sign of fatigue.” At one point, he even runs away from home.
Food again symbolizes Louie’s emotional need. While eating a stolen can of beans, Louie sees a passing train filled with people laughing, enjoying themselves, and eating. Hillenbrand writes that Louie, after seeing this train, goes home, throws himself into running, and finally finds “peace” within himself.