Summary and Analysis
Part V Chapter 34: The Shimmering Girl
Back home in Torrance, Louie tries to return to a normal life. Louie still struggles with “suffocating anxiety” and begins using alcohol as a coping mechanism. In March 1946, while on vacation in Florida, Louie meets Cynthia Applewhite, a 20 year old from a privileged upbringing. Two weeks later, they are engaged against the wishes of Cynthia’s family. When Cynthia comes to visit Louie in California in May, they marry anyway. Meanwhile, in Japan, The Bird is on the run. Designated a war criminal, he’s gone into hiding to elude the authorities searching to arrest him.
You can take the POW out of captivity, but you can’t take captivity out of the POW. Freed from The Bird’s clutches, Louie tries to make a new life for himself back in America. That new life includes the hope of “happily ever after” with a beautiful young wife, Cynthia Applewhite.
Louie’s insistence on marrying Cynthia as soon as possible, against her family’s wishes, is more than just reckless love. It’s symptomatic of his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and “suffocating anxiety”—an extension of his unhealthy need to hoard things after his years of extended deprivation. For him, Cynthia symbolizes happiness, security, and a future. Louie is afraid that will all be taken from him—just as it was in the POW camps—if he allows her to postpone their wedding. He’s a free man now, but inside he’s still fighting to escape the mental and spiritual anxiety caused by The Bird.