Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

by

Ben Fountain

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Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator explains that the next morning, a photograph of A-bort surrounded by three cheerleaders will run in the Dallas Morning News. A-bort's first name is spelled wrong, which earns him a new nickname, and he looks like a prop amongst the cheerleaders. The narrator notes that the photo will make Billy realize that the twenty-two-year-old A-bort is also just a kid like Billy. The narrator says that the photo will make Billy anxious.
A-bort's photo in the newspaper with the cheerleaders seems to be more about publicity for the Cowboys than recognition for the soldiers. In addition, the newspaper spells his name wrong, which is dehumanizing and shows that the reports don’t actually care about A-bort as a person.
Themes
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
After the press conference ends, groups of three cheerleaders latch onto each Bravo. Billy doesn't want to touch them, but they get close to him anyway. He finds their makeup disappointing but decides they're beautiful anyway. The cheerleaders praise Billy's answers to the reporters' questions, and Billy feels as though he wants to ask one of them to marry him. The girls tell him about a service trip they took to Iraq and insist that they feel way more appreciative of soldiers. They also seem to stare down the media men, though Billy understands that this entire setup is fake and absurd. He resents the reporters and thinks that seeing them makes him glad he's a soldier.
Again, Billy thinks of an intimate romantic relationship as an escape from the horrors of the war. It also reinforces Billy’s humanity, as he desires love and connection like anyone else. The cheerleaders' service trip to Iraq couldn't actually provide them the experience that Billy and other soldiers live every day, showing that just being in Iraq isn't enough to give someone a full understanding of the war and what it's like to be a soldier.
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
Billy spots "his" cheerleader with Sykes and asks the surrounding cheerleaders if a girl needs to be single to be a cheerleader. They crisply tell him no, but before Billy can ask about his cheerleader, the reporters gather Bravo Squad and Norm together for a photo. As the cameras flash, Norm evades questions about possibly building a new stadium. Billy muses that the reporters must know that the Bravos are being used to promote the Cowboys. As he watches Mr. Jones discuss the game with someone, Billy is surprised to realize that he is still offended by Mr. Jones's gun. He finds it presumptuous.
Billy's continued offense at Mr. Jones's gun comes down to Billy's understanding that a gun gives a person an inordinate amount of power over the people around him—whether or not that person even uses the gun. The gun essentially elevates Mr. Jones to a superhuman level, while making all the other attendees at the game vulnerable.
Themes
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
Deciding he needs a minute to himself, Billy leans up against the wall. Several reporters approach him and ask if he's thought of writing a book. They offer to ghostwrite for Billy, but Billy instead answers questions about his own reading. When the reporters ask about drug use, Billy points out that at nineteen, he can't even buy beer. As they chatter on, Billy becomes aware of his cheerleader standing next to him. He gives the reporters his email address so that they'll leave, and he finally turns to the cheerleader. She introduces herself as Faison and explains that her grandmother was Miss Stovall in 1937. Billy loses himself listening to her talk about working to pay for school.
A book, especially one that's ghostwritten by reporters, would only feed the Fantasy Industrial Complex and further sensationalize the war and Billy's experience of it. The reporters continue to push the idea of the book, revealing that they view Billy as a way to make money. In addition, while the exchange about drugs and alcohol may be the reporters’ attempt to humanize Billy, they may actually be looking for something scandalous to write about rather than caring about Billy’s own health and safety.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
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Faison compliments Billy's interview and tells him about what it's like being a cheerleader. She claims that most of what the cheerleaders do is service work and insists that it's very enriching. She pauses before asking Billy if he's a Christian. Billy turns away before saying that he's searching, and he deflects her other questions about his spirituality. Faison insists that God wanted them to meet today. Billy sighs and decides it must be true. As Faison begins to explain how she came to Jesus, Billy takes her hand and leads her into the small space between the backdrop curtain and the wall.
Billy's avoidance suggests that he doesn't find comfort in Christianity or religion, though his (somewhat reluctant) agreement that God wanted him to meet Faison shows that Billy is looking for meaning in the world. In addition, Faison's words about religion are rendered in the same visual way as the words about the war, perhaps suggesting that the novel treats war and religion as similarly absurd and meaningless.
Themes
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Slowly, Billy leans in and kisses Faison. They kiss energetically, Faison occasionally coming up for air and whispering that she could get kicked off the squad for this. Billy presses his pelvis into Faison's, and she wraps her legs around his waist. She orgasms quickly, puts her feet back on the ground, and leans into Billy. With tears in her eyes, she whispers that she's never moved this fast with someone, but she knows it's not wrong. When she asks Billy his age, he lies and says he's twenty-one. She insists he has an old soul, a line that Billy thinks is from a movie.
The line from a movie shows how insidious the Fantasy Industrial Complex is: as fictional lines make their way into real-life conversations, it blurs the distinction between fiction and reality. Interestingly, when Billy lies about his age, it's an attempt to make himself seem bigger, better, and more heroic than he feels at nineteen—something that the novel has suggested is in direct opposition to true intimacy, foreshadowing that Billy and Faison’s romance won't work out.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Family and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
Billy hears the voices from the press conference moving away, signaling the end of his time with Faison. She explains quietly that she's not a virgin but she's not casual about sex. Billy assures her that he's the same way and doesn't mention that he's a virgin. Faison goes on, rambling about commitment and how long it takes to form a bond. Billy whispers that he'd like to see Faison when he gets back, and Faison is shocked to hear that Bravo has to return to Iraq. A voice calls for the cheerleaders, and Faison instructs Billy to find her at the twenty-yard line.
Faison's shock that Bravo will return to Iraq suggests that, like Hector, she thought the government took better care of its soldiers, which is further evidence that she has bought into the Fantasy Industrial Complex. She believes the war is something logical, thinking that Billy could simply earn the right to not go back.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon