Summary and Analysis
Part IV Chapter 28: Enslaved
At Naoetsu, Louie and the other POWs are put to backbreaking slave labor in support of Japan’s foundering war effort. Living conditions are abhorrent. The Bird resumes his brutal fixation on Louie, making each day a terror. In April 1945, The Bird takes special pleasure in announcing the death of President Franklin Roosevelt to his prisoners. Louie is forced to work hard labor on coal barges. In the midst of this degradation and hopelessness, the POWs fight little battles, stealing food and supplies, sabotaging work, and confusing their captors. During slave labor on one coal barge, Louie injures his ankle and can’t work. The Bird promptly forces him to clean out pig stalls with his bare hands instead.
In remote Naoetsu, Louie’s flickering hopes of freedom are quickly extinguished. Singling out Louie, The Bird continues a systematic dehumanization designed to degrade and destroy the former Olympian. He attacks Louie’s body (with torture and physical injuries), Louie’s mind (with unpredictable punishments and overt delight at Roosevelt’s death), and Louie’s spirit (with soul-crushing labors like cleaning out the pig stalls barehanded).
This is the darkest time of Louie’s life, a time when he truly is lost, without hope. If he’s going to die, Naoetsu is where it will be.