Summary and Analysis
Part IV Chapter 20: Farting for Hirohito
Louie discovers that, despite the harshness of their captivity, there is a spirit of resistance running through the prisoners at Ofuna. Louie is befriended by Lieutenant William “Bill” Harris, a captured marine with a photographic memory. When prisoners manage to steal newspapers, Harris memorizes the war maps pictured in them and reproduces them as morale-builders for the POWs. Prisoners are adept communicating via Morse code, stealing from their captors, and secretly insulting Japan—including farting in Emperor Hirohito’s direction. Louie also keeps a secret diary and befriends Frank Tinker, a dive-bomber pilot. Then, in March 1944, Phil is sent to a slave labor camp called Ashio, north of Tokyo.
For Louie, there is no escape from the hellish abuses in the Ofuna interrogation center, but there are redemptive moments. The prisoners’ secret rebellions and symbolic acts of resistance, even in the smallest ways, draw the men together. In the midst of his suffering, Louie is able to cling to these moments and to his fellow POWs as restorers of stolen dignity, as reminders that there is hope.
Additionally, these little rebellions reinforce to Louie and the other POWs that they don’t belong in this systematic hell created by their Japanese captors. They are citizens of a better place, a country where freedom and dignity is a constitutional right. A symbolic “heaven” in America is waiting for them if only they can stay alive to see it.