Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

by

Ben Fountain

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk can help.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Billy hopes that Josh will bring him some Advil, as Billy is hung over from last night, and the Jack and Cokes in the limo didn't help. Dime tells Albert about Shroom's funeral, which should've been a solemn tribute to Shroom's spirituality but instead was a "freak show of Christian wingnuts." Crack asks Albert to make sure that all goes in the movie, but Albert insists that nobody would believe it. Billy watches the Goodyear Blimp fly over the dome, and a tribute video to former Cowboys football players begins playing on the Jumbotron. Billy thinks that in two days he'll be back in Iraq, but today, he's immersed in all things quintessentially American: football, Thanksgiving, and well-wishing citizens.
Though the text doesn't specify who the "Christian wingnuts" are, they likely refer to members of the Westboro Baptist Church, a group that began protesting at soldiers' funerals around this time. When Albert asserts that nobody would believe how sad and strange Shroom's funeral was, it shows that Albert has very definite ideas of what will sell in Hollywood—and extreme Christianity apparently won't. In turn, this reinforces the idea that the American public engages with the parts of the war they find interesting, not what's actually true.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Family and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Billy tells Mango that he's going to the restroom, and Mango suggests quietly that they go get beer. The two race up the steps, and Billy feels as though the dome is pulling him backwards into it. He thinks back over the last two weeks and the immense structures he's seen, all of which he finds unnerving. Billy uses the restroom as Mango asks for beers in Coca Cola cups. Billy performs fifty pushups before taking his beer. He and Mango watch the other football fans around them, and Billy finds himself fascinated by ordinary citizens. He asks Mango what they might be thinking about. Mango sarcastically suggests the meaning of life and then amends his answer to the game, food, and the weather.
Again, Billy's fascination with the large structures across America implies a lower-class upbringing. Similarly, his curiosity about ordinary citizens shows that he thinks about them in much the same way the  citizens think about soldiers. For Billy, citizens are enigmas who live in an entirely different world, completely separate from the horrors of the war.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
Billy thinks that those thoughts sound right, but he wishes that Americans at home thought about other things a little more. As he watches the crowd, Billy is impressed that most people are wearing Cowboys merchandise. When Billy and Mango finish their beers, they return to their seats. Mango burps loudly and it smells incriminatingly of beer. Dime turns angrily to Mango, and Billy innocently asks what happened to Major Mac. Bravo erupts in laughter, and Dime sends Billy and Mango to go find Major Mac.
In noting the prevalence of Cowboys gear in the crowd, Billy recognizes the outpouring of overt support for a privately-owned football team. The Cowboys are thought of as American heroes, just like Bravo Squad are—though nobody is dressed to support the soldiers, suggesting that citizens don't feel as though the soldiers need the kind of support that the players do.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
Mango and Billy promptly buy more beers and then walk through the crowd. They wonder where Major Mac might've gone and remark on the futility of trying to find someone in a crowd of eighty thousand people. Billy thinks that searching for Major Mac is just another pointless task that makes the Army what it is, but he's glad to be doing something. Mango is a great companion for such a task—he's rock solid and can recite all the presidents and vice presidents from memory, which tends to shut down whispers that he's an illegal alien. The only time Mango broke down was when Bravo was asked to search the aftermath of a car bomb for the correct number of missing limbs.
Billy's analysis that the Army is inherently nonsensical helps him cope with the fact that the war itself and everything adjacent to it seem similarly absurd. It frees him from having to ask questions such as why he's doing what he's doing, which allows him to compartmentalize. The struggle Mango faces to be taken seriously as a "real American" suggests an underlying belief among the gossipers that non-Americans can't be true heroes, which seeks to delegitimize Mango and his service.
Themes
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Family and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
Get the entire Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk LitChart as a printable PDF.
Billy lynn s long halftime walk.pdf.medium
Billy gets a text from Kathryn asking if he's cold. Mango and Billy discuss the hot girls they danced with at a strip club last night. Mango insists that the girls seemed more like models than strippers. Billy remembers that when Sykes returned from his private dance, he told them that his girl had been truly into him. All of Bravo had gotten blowjobs, but Billy decided afterwards that he needs more from a woman. He's still a virgin and desperately wants a girlfriend. He's distraught that he hasn't found one in the last two weeks. Billy feels as though time is running out.
Billy’s anxiety surrounding the fact that he hasn't found a girlfriend in the last two weeks suggests that while citizens engage with the war as though it's fantasy, Billy thinks about intimate relationships as though they're fantasy, not reality. He essentially suggests that he expects a Hollywood-esque whirlwind romance, showing that he, too, is just as trapped in the Fantasy Industrial Complex as anyone else.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Family and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
Later, Bravo will pack, and the next day, they'll start their flight back to Iraq to finish their combat tour. The narrator notes that many people remark that it's miraculous that Bravo only lost two members, but Billy thinks that given how random it all seems, they could've all died. He remembers when he first realized how maddening war can be when Shroom advised him to walk one foot in front of another so that if a bomb went off, he might lose only one foot instead of both. Shroom later made the point that if a bullet is going to make contact, it's already been fired.
Shroom's logic rests on the belief that war and violence are inherently illogical and not something a person can control. Notably, this is a view that forms with firsthand experience, offering evidence for why citizens talk about miracles when, in Billy and Shroom's eyes, living or dying is just dumb luck. Shroom's advice, however, is one way he shows loyalty to Billy—it gives Billy a slightly better chance at making it out alive.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Family and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Billy knows that Mango is also thinking about the war, and he remembers Kathryn telling him to keep being lucky. He looks around the concourse of the stadium and thinks that it's a truly disgusting place. Mango and Billy decide to abandon their search for Major Mac and return to their seats after buying pizza. Billy thinks about the fact that he's a semi-celebrity right now. Sometimes he's invisible, but other times, thankful Americans mob him to express their gratitude. He knows he's being used as a publicity stunt, but he figures that that's part of being a soldier.
Brimming with people from all walks of life, the stadium represents America as a whole. Thus, Billy's assessment that the stadium is disgusting implies that the same is true for the country. The stadium look shiny and exciting on television, mediated by camera angles and careful selection on footage. In real life, however, the stadium is falling apart. Likewise, America seems like a perfect country, but upon closer examination, it's very easy to see everything that’s wrong with it. As Billy will discover later, there are "nice" parts of the stadium, but access to those parts is very limited to the super rich—just like in America.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Billy and Mango wander into a high-end shop selling Cowboys merchandise. They immediately begin laughing as they take in the absurdity of the Cowboys chess sets, leather jackets, and toaster ovens. They argue over whether the leather jacket is real leather and begin wrestling with each other, lobbing insults as they do. The man tending the shop steps in and loudly offers assistance, and Billy asks the man if the jacket is real leather. When the man affirms that it is, Billy victoriously turns back to Mango, and they begin wrestling again. The shop tender calls their attention and mentions that they sell five or six leather jackets per game. Billy and Mango leave, and Mango remarks with awe that the jacket was $679.
Again, the prevalence of the Cowboys brand and the existence of shops like this indicate that citizens are more than willing to spend money on products that support the Cowboys. For Billy and Mango, the fact that someone would spend $679 on a Cowboys  jacket is illogical, echoing the way that they perceive  war as similarly absurd. Further, a jacket of that price is well out of Billy and Mango's reach, which implying criticism as to how Americans pay their soldiers.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon