Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

by Laura Hillenbrand

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What is the author's claim or purpose in Unbroken, and what are three supporting examples?

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In Unbroken, Lauren Hillenbrand emphasizes the resiliency of the human spirit. Through the varied experiences of Louis Zamperini, she shows that qualities developed in the quest for excellence become even more valuable in times of crisis. Three relevant aspects of his life are his career as a runner, his World War II military service, and his experience in captivity as a prisoner of war.

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Throughout her biography of Louis Zamperini, author Lauren Hillenbrand demonstrates the close connections between efforts to achieve positive goals and to endure horrific experiences. Zamperini, who went from Olympic hopeful to prisoner of war during World War II, provides an impressive example of the resiliency of the human spirit. Hillenbrand demonstrates that Louis’s efforts to develop the physical and mental skills needed to become an outstanding runner were extremely beneficial to his later experiences in the war. Even more, after he and his fellow soldiers were taken prisoner, he was forced to draw on his deepest reserves just to stay alive.

Hillenbrand reveals that Louis was not always a strong, athletic boy. Rather, he was weakened by childhood pneumonia. As he discovered a passion for running track, his hard work and perseverance paid off, and he became a much faster runner than he—or anyone else—had imagined. After winning awards in high school, he then qualified for the US Olympic team and participated in the Berlin Olympics.

The next phase of his life was very different, as the US entered World War II and Louis enlisted. The author presents numerous challenges and accomplishments of his career as an airman, including the emotional toll of losing fellow flyers. The discipline Louis had developed as a runner was applied in the arduous combat situations. After his plane crashed in the Pacific, Louis and the few other survivors spent six weeks adrift in a life raft.

Rather than reaching land, they were picked up by a Japanese boat and became prisoners of war. His experiences in the camp were even worse than the near-starvation he experienced while stranded at sea. He had to endure squalid conditions, scarce rations, and frequent beatings. Even more, he had to exert tremendous mental effort so that he did not provide the military intelligence that his captors pressed him to divulge.

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