Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Billy decides to give his ball away as he follows Norm and the other Bravos through the crowds. He scans the masses for a "little redneck kid" that reminds him of himself and finally spots a twitchy boy wearing only a hoodie. Billy is infuriated that the boy's parents took him to a football game instead of buying him a winter coat. When Billy approaches he boy, the boy can barely speak. Billy compliments the boy's name, gives him the ball, and walks away without looking back. Mango is shocked, but soon gives his ball to a passing child too. He notes that the ball could be worth $1000 if the Cowboys win the Super Bowl, but they decide that's not going to happen.
By giving his ball away, Billy chooses to simply remove himself from the system that affords those with money the most power. This sets up the precedent that Billy is willing to forego money if doing so aligns with his principles—or if taking or keeping the money makes him sick like the locker and equipment rooms did. His observation about the parents purchasing game tickets versus a winter coat illustrates the power of the Complex, as it values these commercial experiences over comfort (or even physical health).
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Family and Brotherhood Theme Icon
The Bravos have heard nothing about halftime, which riles them up. They decide to get drunk, but Billy thinks of Faison and decides to only get buzzed. Norm invites Bravo Squad to watch the kickoff from his private box, and the guests already in the box applaud when Bravo enters. Billy feels the "money vibe" as he takes in the bars, buffets, and waiters. Bravo heads for the bar as Norm gives yet another speech thanking Bravo for their service. The guests listen intently, and Billy wonders what combination of birth, education, money, and social skills allows these people to look like these do.
When Billy tries to figure out how these extraordinarily wealthy and powerful people look the way they do, he recognizes that they don't look the way he does—another indication that "Americans" aren't all the same, as politicians' speeches would lead one to believe. The guests' applause is, again, an easy way for them to show their support for the troops and for the war without actually doing anything substantial to help the soldiers.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
An old man waves Billy over and introduces himself as March Hawey. Hawey immediately begins talking about viewing the footage on the news and even asks his wife to tell Billy how affected he was by the footage. Hawey says that watching it was cathartic and a morale boost, and the gathering crowd nods in agreement. Hawey leans in and asks Billy if it's getting better in Iraq. Billy answers noncommittally, and Hawey continues. He says he fully supports the war and that President Bush (whom he's known since Bush was a boy) is a fine man, but the people around Bush are making a mess of the war.
Again, the way that Hawey talks about viewing the video is wildly different from the way that Billy thinks about experiencing it. Hawey seems to think of the video as entertainment and wholly American. Billy, on the other hand, doesn't feel as though he has the power to tell Hawey, as he previously told Kathryn, that nobody seems to know what's going on in Iraq.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Hawey asks Billy if he was scared, and Billy says that he was, but he didn't have time to think about it. The crowd seems to want more, so Billy repeats a Dime-ism: if you have enough ammo, you'll probably be fine. The crowd laughs, and even though Billy didn't technically lie, he feels dirty like he did. He looks around at the crowd in the box and focuses on Dime.
Billy struggles to give Hawey what he wants (and feels bad when he does) because Billy’s experience of the war is so different. For Billy, it's real, gruesome, and damaging, while for these people in Norm's box, it's a charming talking point.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
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Billy thinks back to how Shroom spoke about Dime as being all-knowing and exceptionally smart. Dime was one for getting out and walking in Iraq for the sole purpose of gaining knowledge, even if doing so was exceptionally dangerous. One day, a group of teenage boys approached the walking soldiers and yelled, "give me my pocket." When Dime and Shroom figured out that the boys wanted money, Dime laughed and taught the boys how to properly demand money in English. The boys thanked Dime and walked away, yelling, "give me five dollars beech!"
This anecdote about teenage boys in Iraq works to humanize the Iraqis for both the soldiers and the reader, reinforcing the idea that the "enemy" is human, and teenage boys exist everywhere. Just as children Brian’s age die in the war, teenage boys also die and must suffer the consequences of the conflict.
Themes
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
Back in Norm's private box, Billy listens to Hawey say that he thinks it's bad to keep talking about terror on the news. One woman mentions that Cheney surely likes it, and Hawey smiles cryptically and says that he and Cheney are old friends but haven't talked in a while. Someone arrives with a Jack and Coke for Billy. He sips and thinks that everyone here is so sure of the war, and that an abyss separates these people from the actual war.
The way that Hawey talks about Cheney indicates that he's powerful and runs in the same crowd as America’s most powerful politicians. This suggests to the reader that Hawey isn't someone to be trusted. Like President Bush, Hawey likely doesn't value soldiers' lives as the lives of actual humans.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Billy listens to the conversations around him until Norm comes up and puts his massive arm around Billy's shoulder. Norm talks about the honor of having such heroes present, and remarks that it's no surprise that a Texan led the way at the Al-Ansakar Canal. Billy blushes. Others take it for modesty, but Billy is miserable as Hawey suggests that Billy will be the next Audie Murphy (a decorated WWII veteran from Texas). Norm mentions that Billy was recommended for a Medal of Honor, but someone at the Pentagon didn't agree. Billy, ashamed, hopes that no Bravos are watching, but he sees Dime and Albert watching and realizes that Dime told Albert about this.
When Norm mentions Billy's Medal of Honor, he does it in such a way as to make it seem as though he believes Billy should've gotten it, especially when he then compares Billy to Audie Murphy. Billy's shame, on the other hand, reminds the reader of just how powerless Billy is to change anything about his situation. He's at the mercy of everyone above him to decide whether he returns to Iraq and whether he's recognized for his service. His shame also shows that Billy does believe the medals mean something, indicating that he, too, has bought into the Complex to some degree.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Finally, Billy escapes to the bar for Coke, and Dime joins him. Dime admits that he told Albert about Billy's Medal, but he won't tell Billy why. Dime tells Billy that March Hawey is "Mr. Swift Boat," and Billy tries to not let on that he didn't know. Dime tells Billy to watch out for him, as men like Hawey are smart and know the true enemies are dissenters at home. He assures Billy that his medals mean nothing to these people and insists that they get to decide who's a real American. Dime leaves, and Billy feels as though his headache is getting worse.
"Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" was a political group that formed during the 2004 election to oppose the John Kerry's run for president. Given that Kerry lost, Hawey was successful—indicating just how powerful Hawey is. He was able to sway an election against a candidate who actually did serve in Vietnam, which is why Dime insists that Hawey can decide who's a hero and who isn't.
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
A woman excitedly tells Billy that he's on the Jumbotron and engages him in conversation about the Victory Tour. She and her husband laugh when Billy says that the airports are the things that stand out the most. She asks about his time in Washington D.C. and is disappointed that Bravo wasn't invited to a formal state dinner. As the conversation swirls around the war and the Iraqi people, Billy mentally checks out and watches other Bravos. He begins to feel as though his headache is just psychological.
Though the woman's "sadness" that Bravo didn't get to attend a state dinner is somewhat absurd, humorous, and indicative of her wealthy, it also makes the point that President Bush didn't exactly do everything in his power to honor Bravo Squad when they visited and received their honors.
Themes
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
People begin shouting for silence as "The Star-Spangled Banner" begins. The Bravos snap to attention as the Cowboys' color guard brings out the flag and the national anthem begins. Billy thinks about Shroom and Lake, but his mind wanders to Faison. He picks her out in the line of cheerleaders, and he almost feels as though the anthem is a love song. Billy moans, and a woman steps towards him and puts her arm around him comfortingly. Her grasp is brittle, and Billy reasons that as a soldier, his body doesn't belong to him.
The woman that grabs Billy seems to think that Billy is moaning because of pride or love for America—a belief that shows again how the American public turns their soldiers into props and dehumanizes them. Though she has no evidence to the contrary, it's telling that the woman doesn't consider the fact that Billy could have a number of other reasons to moan that don't have to do with pride for his country.
Themes
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
Billy observes that Americans sound like drunks at the end of the anthem. A group of older women asks Billy if he's proud, and he thinks that he sure is. However, he also wonders why they play the anthem before these games between the private, for-profit corporations that are the professional football teams.
Billy misses that football games are an encapsulation of American culture as a whole: like the news, football is sensationalized violence, and America's relationship with the game is mediated through television.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Billy finally escapes the women and finds A-bort, Holliday, and Mango watching the field from seats at the front of the box. He joins them, ascertains that they still know nothing about the halftime plans, and watches a few plays. They wonder if they're being rude, and Mango finally declares that football is boring. As he watches, Billy thinks that Mango is right. He feels as though he's sitting in church between plays, but the four manage to order drinks, which helps.
Mango picks up on the fact that for the rich crowd especially, football is barely about watching the game. It's about the spectacle of watching each other, showing off wealth, and getting to chat idly about politics. Meanwhile, the soldiers simply don't know how to exist in such a world and instead find themselves on the fringes of Norm’s private box.
Themes
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Dime swings into a seat and snarls about there being alcohol in the Bravos' drinks, but Holliday interrupts to say that Mango thinks football is boring. Dime fixes Mango with an angry stare and nearly yells that football is the best sport, while soccer is "fruity," and if Mango wants to watch it, he can go back to Mexico. Mango reminds Dime that he was born in Tucson, but Dime continues his rant until Mango tries to insult the Texans who fought at the Alamo.
Though Dime can't be blamed for wanting his soldiers to stay sober enough to keep up conversations and look acceptable, he's also attempting to force them into the image of the perfect hero that Norm and the others expect. The men's desire to drink shows the reader that they just want to have a good time and be human. The soldiers may also be drinking as a way to cope with all of the uncomfortable situations they’re put in at the game.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
Dime asks Billy to point out Faison, and he compliments Billy on his choice. When Dime leaves, he gives Billy the binoculars. Billy trains them on Faison and feels as though he's falling deeply in love with her. Suddenly, March Hawey joins Billy and asks Billy about dove hunting around Stovall. Billy knows nothing about dove hunting and hands over the binoculars at Hawey's request. Billy asks Hawey about his businesses and says he might be interested in business after the Army, assuming he won't be bored. Hawey laughs and says that if a person wants to make money, they need to find something they like and work hard at it.
Bird hunting is historically a rich man's sport, which again shows just how wealthy and powerful Hawey is. The fact that Billy doesn't even know that dove hunting is good around Stovall (or even that dove hunting existed) shows the degree to which Billy is shut out from that kind of wealth and privilege, even when it exists in his own backyard.
Themes
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Hawey continues that business is like a puzzle with a thousand moving parts and tells Billy that a person needs to be an independent thinker and have inner peace to be a successful businessman. He lists the virtues of the capitalist system, stating that it's responsible for "tremendous human progress." Hawey says that self-interest and greed lead to generations constantly getting better and better, and Billy thinks that America has never made more sense. Hawey acts as though he's going to continue his speech but stops when he learns that Billy is only nineteen.
Though Billy thinks Hawey's description of capitalism makes sense, it's also worth noting that capitalism is also the reason why Billy feels as though he'll never be able to catch up to Hawey and become rich. By encouraging competition, capitalism makes sure that men like Hawey are continually rewarded for their successes and makes it harder for individuals like Billy to achieve success.
Themes
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
After a moment, Hawey asks Billy to confirm that he was denied a Medal of Honor. Hawey mentions his own brief service, and his thoughts trail off. Billy thinks that all the old men struggle to talk about their service. Hawey finally says he's proud to have met Billy and begins talking about his grandsons. Billy notices Faison on the Jumbotron and groans, and Hawey makes approving noises and comments on Norm's "show dogs."
Hawey's comment about Faison reinforces the fact that the cheerleaders are there as supporters: they support the players in theory, but they also support men like Hawey who want to look at beautiful women. In this way, the cheerleaders become less than human, especially on the Jumbotron. There, they exist for visual consumption only.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon