Lone Survivor

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Lone Survivor Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Marcus Luttrell's Lone Survivor. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Marcus Luttrell

Marcus Luttrell grew up in Texas and began training to become a Navy SEAL at the age of fourteen. He enlisted in the Navy in 1999 and served in Iraq during the 2003 invasion of the country. In 2005, Luttrell was deployed to Afghanistan, where he was involved in the famous Operation Red Wings (which he calls “Redwing”), the principle subject of his book Lone Survivor (2007). For his bravery in the aftermath of the operation, Luttrell received the Purple Heart and the Navy Cross. In the last decade, Luttrell founded the Lone Survivor Foundation for helping wounded American service members, got married, had two children, and began hosting After Action, a TV show about veteran issues.
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Historical Context of Lone Survivor

The memoir revolves around the events of the War on Terror. Marcus discusses the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which prompted the American government under President George W. Bush to invade the nations of Iraq and Afghanistan in the interest of defeating two terrorist groups, al Qaeda and the Taliban. The War on Terror is still considered a controversial part of American history, with advocates arguing that it made America safer and critics arguing that it inspired more new terrorists than it defeated. Marcus also discusses the changes afflicting the American oil market in the 1970s and 1980s, as the price fixing techniques of OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, a group including many Middle Eastern countries) crippled the market for Texas oil companies.

Other Books Related to Lone Survivor

The book that’s arguably most similar to Lone Survivor is American Sniper (2012) by Chris Kyle. Kyle, a friend of Luttrell, was also deployed to Iraq, and may have been inspired to “write” a book (like Luttrell, he used a ghostwriter) after the success of Luttrell’s memoir. Furthermore, both Luttrell and Kyle’s books have been made into Hollywood films—the former starring Mark Wahlberg, the latter starring Bradley Cooper. There have been many works of fiction inspired by America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last twenty years, though they tend to take a more cynical view of the war. One of the most critically acclaimed of these works is Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2012) by Ben Fountain, set during the course of a football game. Fountain uses this clever conceit to attack the exhibitionism and crudeness of American foreign policy during the War on Terror. Marcus Luttrell also mentions that his favorite film is The Count of Monte Cristo, based on the 1844 novel by Alexandre Dumas. In this famous adventure novel, Edmond Dantès, a man wrongfully accused of treason, seeks revenge against the men who plotted his downfall.
Key Facts about Lone Survivor
  • Full Title: Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10
  • When Written: ca. 2006-2007
  • Where Written: Houston, Texas
  • When Published: June 12, 2007
  • Literary Period: Contemporary nonfiction
  • Genre: Memoir, nonfiction, military history
  • Setting: Afghanistan (with other scenes in Texas, Virginia, and Iraq)
  • Antagonist: Ben Sharmak / Osama bin Laden / the Taliban / al Qaeda
  • Point of View: First person

Extra Credit for Lone Survivor

Of course they made it into a movie. It didn’t take long for Hollywood to pounce on Lone Survivor. In 2013, Universal Pictures released a feature film based on Luttrell’s memoir, starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Peter Berg. The film didn’t earn great reviews, but it raked in well over a hundred million dollars, and picked up two Oscar Nominations in technical categories. Weird fact: Marcus Luttrell cameos in the film, seemingly as three different characters.

Where is he now? In the ten years since Lone Survivor was published, Marcus Luttrell has become a right-wing political pundit. His TV show, After Action, is produced by Glenn Beck, the famous Fox News host, and in 2016 he endorsed Governor Rick Perry for the presidency. At the 2016 Republican National Convention, he spoke in support of Donald Trump.