Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

by

Ben Fountain

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Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Billy is awed by the sheer size of the football players. He thinks that America is the only place where football could flourish, given its immense food resources to fuel these massive people. He watches one player pour an entire box of cereal and a gallon of milk into a mixing bowl. When Norm introduces Bravo, the team applauds, but they seem barely interested in the soldiers. Norm asks Coach Tuttle if the soldiers can get some autographs, and Tuttle begrudgingly agrees.
An autograph is only valuable because the person it's attached to is deemed valuable. It's telling, then, that the Bravos get the players' autographs, not the other way around, despite the fact that many characters talk about supporting the troops and call them heroes.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
Billy hangs back, afraid to even look at the football players. He feels small and exposed, and all of the padding the players wear depresses Billy. The players themselves don't look as though they want to be bothered as they get dressed, which Billy understands. He feels weird not getting autographs, so he goes down the line. Most of the players barely look up as they sign, and Billy watches two extremely ill children get autographs as well.
At this point in the war, soldiers were overwhelmingly under-armored, which is a sharp contrast from the heavily padded football players and reflects where Americans' priorities lie. The way the players engage with the children suggests that the players view themselves as superhuman, above acknowledging anyone else's humanity.
Themes
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
When Billy gets to Octavian Spurgeon—a hulking black man with delicate cheekbones—Octavian greets Billy awkwardly. The player is silent for a moment and then starts to ask Billy about Iraq. Two other players gather as Octavian asks what it feels like to kill people. Billy thinks that he'll have to reckon with that question if he survives the war, but he says it doesn't feel like anything. Several more players join the conversation as Octavian asks what Billy carries. Billy explains that it depends on what he's doing and lists several guns. Players ask about AK-47s and what they do to the body, and they ask the same about several other high-power automatic weapons. Billy laughs, though it isn't funny, as he explains that the automatic weapons destroy the body. The players murmur like they're eating something sweet, and Billy excuses himself.
Octavian's preoccupation with weapons and killing people highlights how he has the privilege of engaging with the war as though it's an interesting hobby, not a horrifying reality. It also shows that he dehumanizes the enemy, though Billy must do the same in order to compartmentalize and do his job. This is why his earlier realization about Brian being the same age as the innocent Iraqi children who are killed in war was so shocking for him—it forced him to stop compartmentalizing and understand that the enemies are people too.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Billy finds Dime, whose football still sports no autographs. He tells Dime that the players aren't sane, which makes Dime laugh, and then tells Dime what happened with Faison. Dime laughs but congratulates Billy. Billy asks what he can do to not lose Faison, and Dime insists that Faison was just doing a nice thing for Billy. He says that if Billy can get her email address, that'll be his only chance.
By refusing to get autographs, Dime refuses to play into the Complex that affords more attention and care to professional sports players than to soldiers on the front. In addition, Dime steps into the role of a mentor figure and gives Billy a reality check about sustaining a relationship with Faison. He acknowledges that this is a real-life situation, not fantasy.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Family and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
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An equipment manager named Ennis introduces himself and then asks Billy and Dime if they'd like a tour of the equipment room. Ennis asks how the Bravos' visit has been thus far, assuring Dime that the Cowboys try to take care of their "special guests." The equipment room is as large as an airplane hangar and filled with cabinets and shelves. As Ennis leads them through the room, he points out the space-age fabrics and materials. There's an entire wall of shoes of different types and treads, twelve styles of shoulder pads, and individualized options for mouth guards in the helmets. Ennis also points out the thousands of packs of chewing gum, and cold-weather thermal gear.
Again, compared to the under-armored soldiers in Iraq, the equipment room is a rude indication of what America truly values and where it spends its money. The "space-age" materials show that these materials are scientifically tested and developed, indicating that a great deal of care and money went into their production. All of this coalesces to create the sense that the soldiers don't matter as much as football players. 
Themes
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
Dime asks about steroids, but Ennis ignores him and leads them to the footballs and the coaches' equipment. He explains that it takes two semis to travel for away games. By the end of the tour, Billy's headache is even worse from the plastic and leather fumes of the room. He feels as though he doesn't understand what he's seen, but it's definitely made him sick. Ennis mentions that he was in the Army in the early 1960s but narrowly missed going to Vietnam. He thanks Dime and Billy for their service, and Billy asks Ennis if he has any Advil. Ennis explains they have tons, but he could lose his job for giving Billy some.
Even though Ennis was a soldier himself, he still cannot bring himself to acknowledge Billy's humanity by providing him with medicine. The equipment room makes Billy feels sick because it shows plainly just how much work and expense goes into creating the media spectacle that is professional football. Meanwhile, nobody seems willing to fund a movie about a true story in the Iraq war.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
Dime asks Ennis to autograph his ball. Ennis tries to refuse, but when Dime insists that Ennis runs the team, he finally gives in. This is Dime's only autograph. Back in the locker room, Norm stands on a chair and addresses the team. Billy notices that the players are some of the best-cared-for humans and thinks that they should be sent to Iraq. They'd terrify the insurgents, and the insurgents wouldn't stand a chance. Norm asks the players to channel the determination of the Bravos, which riles the players.
Contrary to what Dime says, Ennis does clearly run the Cowboys, and his signature is worthless compared to the players' signatures. This shows again that people like Ennis, soldiers, and cheerleaders, aren't afforded the same kind of respect as the entities that they support.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
The Cowboys' pastor leads the players in prayer, and Billy remembers that Shroom said the Bible is just a compilation of Sumerian legends. Billy finds it difficult to pray but finds comfort in the fact that there were ancient civilizations well before Christian ones. Shroom never got to tell Billy who the Sumerians were.
In the preface, Fountain highlighted how "news that stays news." Here, that idea gives Billy comfort, as the Bible tells stories that are broadly applicable and ancient (and therefore, had been news long before they made it into the Bible).
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Octavian Spurgeon summons Billy to his locker, where several other players are gathered. Octavian says that they'd like to come to Iraq, ride with the Bravos for a week, and shoot "Muslim freaks." Billy tries to imagine what's in Octavian's head, but he says simply that it doesn't work that way. Octavian insists that they'd help for free, but Billy says that the Army would love for Octavian to join up—then he'd get to do "extreme things." The players snort, and Octavian insists that they have jobs with contracts they can't break. The players laugh, and Billy turns to follow Mango out of the locker room.
Again, Octavian clearly dehumanizes the Iraqis and glorifies the violence of the war. For him, war is something to pick up and put down. When told that he'd need to experience it like a soldier or not at all (which would mean giving up his privilege and wealth as a player), Octavian shows he thinks very little of the soldiers and what they do.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon