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The Graf Zeppelin Symbol Analysis

The Graf Zeppelin Symbol Icon
The Graf Zeppelin was a giant German airship that flew around the world in 1929. When the Zeppelin passed over Louie’s home in California one night, it created a black absence in the sky by blotting out the light from the stars. Like a black hole that destroys everything around it, the Zeppelin represents the approaching war that will blot out many lives and bring so much suffering to the world’s citizens. The Zeppelin also represents the metaphoric black hole that the war will open inside Louie. Causing him to develop a drinking problem and a serious mental illness called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the war obliterates everything good in his life, including his optimism, his ability to express love for his friends and family, and the joy of running. Only religion and a renewed sense of self-worth save Louie from being consumed by the black hole inside of him.

The Graf Zeppelin Quotes in Unbroken

The Unbroken quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Graf Zeppelin. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Survival and Resilience  Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Random House edition of Unbroken published in 2010.
Chapter 1 Quotes

He could feel the rumble of the craft’s engines tilling the air but couldn’t make out the silver skin, the sweeping ribs, the finned tail. He could see only the blackness of the space it inhabited. It was not a great presence but a great absence, a geometric ocean of darkness that seemed to swallow heaven itself.

Related Characters: Louis “Louie” Zamperini
Related Symbols: The Graf Zeppelin
Page Number: 4-5
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Louis looks up at the Graf Zeppelin, a German airship that flew around the world in the years leading up to World War II. The zeppelin is presented as a symbol of foreboding and even evil: although it's on a peaceful mission, it's going to visit two countries--Germany, as led by Hitler, and Japan--that will soon fight against the United States in World War II. Louis is only a young kid, looking up at the zeppelin as it flies over California. And yet he gets a sense of foreboding as he watches it; it's as if he can feel the specter of World War Two approaching. (The passage is also a good example of how the author uses a highly fictional, imaginative approach to nonfiction: we can't know for sure what Louis was thinking when he was a kid, after all.)


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The Graf Zeppelin Symbol Timeline in Unbroken

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Graf Zeppelin appears in Unbroken. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The One-Boy Insurgency
War and Identity  Theme Icon
...Louis “Louie” Zamperini, then twelve-years-old, and his older brother Pete watch the German airship, the Graf Zeppelin , pass over their house. The size of two and a half football fields, the... (full context)