Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

by

Ben Fountain

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Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back at the Texas Stadium, Billy thinks that if he were to add up the wealth of every person he's ever known, that number would still be less than Norman Oglesby's net worth. Norm owns the Cowboys, and even Sykes, who spent much of the Victory Tour preparing to taunt Norm for questionable decisions about players, is nothing but polite. The Bravos meet Norm in a chilly, bare room filled with about two hundred rich guests. Billy feels as though this is a historic event in his life. He's shocked that Norm in real life doesn't match the version of Norm he's seen on TV, though he reasons that the joint he just smoked is probably making this disconnect worse.
The fact that Sykes apparently has so many issues with Norm and is still overwhelmingly polite to him tells the reader that Norm is an exceptionally powerful man, primarily because of his wealth. In addition, Norm looks different in real life than he does on television, echoing Billy’s earlier observation about the stadium itself.
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Norm goes down the line of Bravos, shaking hands, and when he finally gets to Billy, Billy feels as though he's levitating. He can barely concentrate on Norm's words as Norm notes that Billy is from Texas, which, according to Norm, explains Billy's medals. Norm insists that Billy is now part of a famous fighting Texas tradition stemming back to the Alamo, and Billy listens to the crowd laugh. As Norm addresses the crowd, Billy studies Norm's face, which has been contorted from many years of plastic surgery into something that doesn’t necessarily look good or bad—just expensive. When Norm says that Bravo has given America back its pride, Billy is perplexed, but he can't argue.
For Billy, it's absurd to say that Bravo gave America back its pride—Shroom's death and Lake's injuries are horrific reminders that Bravo wasn't entirely victorious, though people like Norm overwhelmingly gloss over those facts. This shows how individuals who didn't experience the firefight firsthand don't have to grapple with the facts that they don't like. Further, as a rich man, Norm has the power and influence to tell the story he wants to tell—and Billy can't argue because, as a "grunt," he has no power.
Themes
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Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Norm introduces the Bravos to his wife and the rest of his family. After, the rest of the guests mob Bravo Squad to thank them for their service. One couple asks Billy about meeting George and Laura Bush, and Billy remembers that he half-expected President Bush to act embarrassed or ashamed for the war. The man mentions that the president recently hosted them at a state dinner with Prince Charles, and he and Charles talked about hunting.
When the couple talks about George and Laura Bush as being friends, it indicates that the couple is exceptionally wealthy and powerful. Simply meeting President Bush isn't enough to afford Billy any power. In addition, it is apparent that Bush didn't offer Bravo much in the way of hospitality or understanding, which suggests that he doesn't view Bravo as human in the same way he thinks about this couple.
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Billy feels especially poor among the rich people in the room, but he realizes that everyone here is American. He feels envious that these people think that war is a mere talking point, he and thinks back to Shroom's aphorisms about fear. Shroom said that fear guides everything, and Billy thinks about how all of this played out in the platoon—Dime is fearless, while other soldiers giggle or wet themselves from fear. As hard as Billy tries to steer the conversations away from the war, everyone wants to talk about the war as though it's an easily solvable problem.
When Billy feels out of place among his fellow Americans, he recognizes that the rhetoric of many politicians addresses Americans as a homogenous group. This is a tactic to try to create a sense of unity and sell the war as being good for everyone. These people haven't experienced fear like Billy has, which allows them to talk about the war flippantly.
Themes
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Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
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Billy drifts in and out of the conversation until a Cowboys executive offers to get Billy another Coke. The man introduces himself as Mr. Bill Jones, and Billy notices that he's carrying a weapon. This fills Billy with rage and fear. Offering to talk about something other than politics, Mr. Jones leads Billy to the bar and has the bartender put Jack Daniel's in Billy's soda. Billy asks Mr. Jones if he might be able to procure some Advil, and Mr. Jones sends a text. As he does, Billy tries not to gawk at the massive Super Bowl rings on his fingers.
Mr. Jones's gun and Super Bowl rings signal that he's an exceptionally powerful and wealthy man. When he notices that Mr. Jones carries a gun, Billy is angry, which points to his intimate and painful familiarity with what a gun can do. Billy’s anger also suggests that he thinks that toting a gun without intensive military training is a liability, not a help.
Themes
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Once Billy gets his drink, he scans the crowd. Noticing how thick the crowd is around Norm, Billy decides to watch and see what he can learn. Billy observes that Norm is a successful schmoozer but also seems to be working very hard—and watching him work the crowd is almost painful. Billy notices the same thing is true for the rest of Norm's family. Mr. Jones tells Billy that someone is bringing Advil for him.
By noticing how socializing doesn’t come easily to Norm, Billy humanizes Norm and makes him easier to empathize with and engage with as a human, not as a powerful symbol for the Cowboys. Mr. Jones seems to have made a similar observation about Billy—getting him a drink and Advil is recognition that Billy is human, not just a symbol for the war.
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Suddenly feeling fearless, Billy asks Mr. Jones how a business as large as the Cowboys even works. Specifically, Billy wants to know where the money comes from to build the stadium and pay the players. Mr. Jones patiently says that it has to do with "leverage relative to cash flow," which means nothing to Billy. Mr. Jones attempts to explain what can be done with enough leverage. Billy is struck that he's having a conversation like this, even though he knows he's not following at all. Eventually, Mr. Jones steps away, and Billy thinks that the Army has been a crash course in just how big the world is. He wonders if there's a math-based parallel world where money exists. Billy reasons that money is both the realest and most ephemeral thing in the world.
This conversation confirms for Billy that the business world of the rich and powerful is beyond him. It also shows him how the Army has allowed him to see the world for what it really is—unlike many Americans at home, Billy has seen these massive structures of the world, as well as dire poverty. He understands that math and big business control wealth and poverty, but he still finds money confusing and absurd, just like the war.
Themes
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The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Billy wonders how he could learn about business but knows he doesn't want to go back to school. Dime catches Billy off guard and twists Billy's nipple before ordering himself a soda. Billy asks Dime what leverage is, and Dime explains that it's essentially using other people's money and accruing debt. Dime changes the subject and says that Norm is very interested in Albert and the movie business. Dime and Billy watch Mr. Jones work a crowd, and Billy angrily declares that only a jerk would carry a weapon at a football game. Dime starts to laugh but suddenly turns angry when he smells Billy's alcohol. After berating Billy for drinking, Dime insists that he needs Billy to help keep the rest of Bravo alive. Billy feels as though he'd rather die than disappoint Dime.
As Billy will soon realize, the only other way to learn about business (besides going to school) is by getting directly involved in it. However, it’s unlikely that Billy would be able to secure a job offer from one of the rich businessmen at the game. Offering a job to Billy would be a real, substantial way for civilians to support the troops. However, most civilians prefer to offer empty words of thanks for Billy’s service rather than actually helping him. In addition, Billy's whirlwind of emotions about Dime reinforces Shroom's assertion that Dime is a "master of the psyche." Dime evidently knows how to ensure loyalty from his men and keep them on their toes, both of which will keep the men alive in battle.
Themes
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A-bort and Crack approach Billy minutes later with crazed looks, insisting that they want to have sex with Norm's wife. Mango shows up as Billy primly calls the others rude and gross, and the others begin betting on whether or not A-Bort or Crack will be successful. Suddenly, a Cowboys executive approaches, and the Bravos return to their good old American boy personas. The executive sets down a stack of Time magazines for the Bravos to sign, which, by now, is a common occurrence. Billy notes that the soldier on the cover isn't even a Bravo. The six-page article describes the battle on the Al-Ansakar Canal in detail. 
The fact that Time doesn't even feature a Bravo on the cover illustrates how those at home view soldiers and the war: the soldiers themselves are interchangeable, and Bravo is a faceless mass of soldiers, not a distinct group of ten men. Further, the fact that the article is six pages and is extremely detailed shows that public wants to immerse themselves in the excitement of the war from the safety of their homes and not think about how the war adversely affects those involved.
Themes
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The Bravos throw back a round of Jack and Cokes before Josh rounds up the men and briefs them on their upcoming press conference. He assures them that there will be cheerleaders, and that Trisha has a role for them at halftime, but also explains that Trisha is Norm's daughter. Finally, Norm arrives to lead the Bravos to the press conference. Billy's headache persists, and he wishes Josh could find him some Advil.
Even if Mr. Jones attempted to acknowledge Billy's humanity, he and Josh still fail to fully recognize Billy as a human with needs and a headache, since procuring Advil for him seems to be a low priority. Once again, Billy is perceived as a prop rather than a human.
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When Norm opens the door into the press conference room, the cheerleaders start up a chant praising the soldiers. As Norm urges the reporters to stand and applaud for Bravo Squad, Billy feels as though the war has reached a new level of crazy. Billy feels as though Norm views the Bravos as a means to boost the Cowboys brand. After the cheerleaders finish another cheer, Norm introduces Bravo Squad as "America's best," which sends the cheerleaders into another chant. Billy wonders what it's like to be a cheerleader, who only cheers for others and never gets cheered for in return.
Billy conceptualizes the cheerleaders as being in a similar role as the soldiers: both support a bigger entity (the Cowboys and America, respectively) and per his assessment, neither are given the respect they deserve. Both are dehumanized and used as props to support these larger ideas, and they have little power to make any real impact or change.
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Norm offers a quick rundown of the Bravos' heroic exploits in Iraq while Billy studies the cheerleaders. Most look like college girls, and Billy has to remind himself to not look like a creep. Norm continues to expound upon the evil of the terrorists, and Billy wonders if Norm will ever run for office. Norm's speaking style is very political and artificial, and he's very much a performer. Billy realizes he only began to notice that politicians speak this way after he spent time in Iraq.
Again, the novel makes a direct connection between existing in Iraq and understanding that politicians (and powerful people in general) speak to entertain and curry favor, not to actually say anything truthful or useful. This suggests that civilians who don't have Billy's firsthand experience won't necessarily pick up on this, as they're immersed in the Complex and don't realize that the politicians are performing.
Themes
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The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Related Quotes
As Billy continues to look down the line of cheerleaders, one, a short strawberry blonde, returns his gaze and smiles at him. Billy turns back to Norm for a minute before looking back at the cheerleader. She winks at him, and Billy loses himself in a fantasy of falling in love with her, getting married, and having babies. Meanwhile, Norm finally allows the press to ask Bravo questions. Questions range from the Bravos' favorite US cities to their most unusual mission in Iraq. When asked, Dime carefully says that the American soldiers are making a difference for the better in some places. Billy continues to lock eyes with the cheerleader.
Remember that Billy has just visited home and experienced the heartache of his dysfunctional family situation. His daydreams about the cheerleader show that he desperately wants to create a stable, loving family of his own. His daydreams are also an escape from having to think about war during the press conference. 
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When someone asks about how it was meeting President Bush, Dime describes him as easy to talk to. The rest of Bravo looks blank, as Dime's contempt for Bush is well known. Reporters ask about food, religion, and the possibility of a Bravo movie, and finally, they ask what "inspired" Bravo's heroics at the Al-Ansakar Canal. Dime delegates the question to Billy, who manages to mumble something about knowing he needed to save Shroom and his training kicking in. The reporters are apparently intent on getting Billy to admit that he shot the insurgents who tried to capture Shroom, and when he finally gives in, the room erupts. Billy believes the reporters missed the point but agrees that he'll surely think about Shroom during the national anthem later.
For the reporters, hearing Billy say that he killed a "bad guy" is thrilling and supports their perception of the war as being exciting and heroic. For Billy, killing an insurgent is an unfortunate fact he'd rather not think about. Billy indicates that what happened on the Canal wasn't guided by emotion or reason; it was reflex guided by intensive military training. The reporters, on the other hand, want to hear about an emotional and thought-out experience, as if combat were a movie rather than a reality.
Themes
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The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon