Summary and Analysis Part I Chapter 5: Into War


After the 1936 Olympics, Louie joins the track team at the University of Southern California. He sets an NCAA record by running the mile in only 4:08.3. He befriends a Japanese émigré, Jimmie Sasaki, who claims to be a USC student and a fan. Sasaki is actually a spy. Meanwhile, WWII has begun, and the 1940 Tokyo Olympics are cancelled, leaving Louie devastated and without purpose. In early 1941, he leaves USC and joins the Army Air Corps. He is discharged in part because of his airsickness. He makes a lackluster attempt at a career in Hollywood and then, in September, is drafted back into the Army Air Corps.


Louie’s college years at USC represent an era of regression for him. At first, he performs well as a member of the track team, but without Pete nearby, he begins to lose sight of who he is and what he can accomplish. The cancellation of the 1940 Tokyo Olympics is an overwhelming setback for him, something he mourns like a death in the family. Illness interferes with his training, and losses on the track damage his hard-won confidence.

Left to his own devices, Louie becomes symbolically imprisoned by his own attempts to find an easy way through life. Just a few credits short of getting his college degree, he drops out of USC and takes a job as a welder. Then, not wanting to be drafted, he enlists in the Army Air Corps. But he fails and is discharged. He attempts a luckless career in Hollywood, only to suffer the indignity of being drafted after all. Louie again becomes the aimless, lost boy he was as a child, heading nowhere—fast.

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