Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

by

Ben Fountain

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Advil Symbol Icon

Billy’s quest for Advil symbolizes the way that America fails to humanize its soldiers. For much of the novel, Billy is horrendously hung over and suffers from a splitting headache. Although he asks Josh for Advil immediately upon their meeting, it takes Josh most of the novel to follow through on such a simple request, showing how Billy’s needs were a low priority. Billy asks several other people for Advil throughout the course of the novel, and no one can or will help Billy with his headache, even though Advil is a seemingly innocuous request and would bring Billy a great deal of relief. To make matters worse, Billy asks Ennis, the Cowboys' equipment manager, for some Advil from the presumably extensive stock of painkillers kept on hand for the players. Ennis says they have lots of Advil on hand but refuses to give any to Billy, citing bureaucratic guidelines and the possibility of losing his job. Ennis would be quick to come to a football player’s aid but swiftly rejects a soldier, hinting at America’s distorted priorities. Echoing the way that all of the Bravos are treated as props throughout the football game, Billy is shuttled from place to place by the Cowboys staff, who don’t seem to care about Billy’s headache.

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Advil Symbol Timeline in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

The timeline below shows where the symbol Advil appears in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
3. It is Mostly in Your Head But We Have Cures for That
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Family and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Billy hopes that Josh will bring him some Advil, as Billy is hung over from last night, and the Jack and Cokes in the... (full context)
4. The Human Response
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
...seems to know. When Josh is done, Billy asks if he managed to secure some Advil. Josh apologizes profusely and promises to get some. Mango teases Billy about still being hung... (full context)
7. We Are All Americans Here
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
...true for the rest of Norm's family. Mr. Jones tells Billy that someone is bringing Advil for him. (full context)
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
...to the press conference. Billy's headache persists, and he wishes Josh could find him some Advil. (full context)
10. XXL
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
15. Temporary Sanity
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Family and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
...Josh says that he thinks they're already gone. Billy doesn't even ask again for his Advil. (full context)
17. Money Makes Us Real
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
...hates the Cowboys on principle. Josh runs after Dime and Billy, and he finally has Advil. (full context)
18. The Proud Good-Bye
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
...that it's probably still just as messed up. After Albert hangs up, Billy takes more Advil and passes the bottle down the line of Bravos. (full context)