Summary and Analysis Part V Chapter 35: Coming Undone



The data collected about the men known as “Pacific POWs” after WWII ends is sobering. “These statistics,” Hillenbrand reports, “translated into tormented, and sometimes ruined, lives.” Louie is no exception, suffering flashbacks, nightmares, and intense anxiety. He is consumed with rage and prone to angry outbursts. Louie attempts to regain his pre-POW camp dignity by returning to track and field, but an injury ends his track career for good. He falls into alcoholism. And he becomes obsessed with one thought: killing The Bird.


In this chapter, Hillenbrand focuses her authorial role as journalist and historian by documenting the postwar lives of former POWs in America. The recitations of facts here serve as more evidence of her strict insistence on retelling the true story of Louie Zamperini’s life and on her desire to use Louie’s story to cast light on the broader history of the WWII era.

Louie, meanwhile, falls deeper into a tormented state that’s fueled by flashbacks, nightmares, alcohol, and an obsession with gaining revenge. Once again, emotionally and spiritually, he’s a lost soul trying to find his way to freedom.