Two years after the Japanese government announced that he was dead, Watanabe sees his mother again. The last time they spoke was two years ago when he said that he’d meet her at this spot in another two years. Like Louise Zamperini, Shizuka believed that her son was still alive despite what she saw that day when she identified the dead body as her son.
Despite the fact that their sons are mortal enemies, both mothers share one key trait: an unbreakable connection to their sons that strengthens their convictions. By comparing their mother’s faith in this way, Hillenbrand continues to built the parallels between Louie and the Bird.
In Los Angles in 1949, a tall blonde man named Billy Graham gets off a train. He has been travelling the U.S., preaching evangelical Christianity. His blunt, emphatic preaching bring large crowds to his tent revival meetings. After hearing about his sermons from a neighbor, Cynthia decides to go, but Louie refuses. When she returns, she says she has a gone through a religious awakening and won’t divorce Louie. After some convincing, Louie decides he will attend the next meeting with her.
After building up those parallels, Hillenbrand now begins the arc in Louie’s story that separates him from the Bird. It begins with Cynthia, who has clearly had a hard time of it and is struggling with the difficulty of divorcing a man she loves, searching for strength through religion and finds redemption in the Christian faith. Louie, intent on overcoming this obstacle by himself as he has so many others, refuses her request to go with him. Even when he does agree to go, his agreement seems grudging.
At the revival meeting, Graham preaches about how people are drowning in sin and unhappiness. Louie says to himself that he is a good man, but Graham’s words make him uneasy. When Graham invites people to declare their faith and find absolution, Louie stands and bolts out of the tent. That night he dreams of Satan hunched over his bed, holding the same belt that Bird used to beat him.
Louie, like Watanabe, is lying to himself – he’s incapable of realizing that he is in need of redemption. But Graham’s words penetrate Louie’s psyche/soul, starting to make him realize that he has lost his way and his moral conscience. Louie’s dream doesn’t just connect the Bird to Satan, it connects the idea of Bird, which because of his desire for revenge Louie can’t escape, as connected to Satan.
Cynthia convinces Louie to go to another meeting. At the meeting, Graham preaches about how God watches over and cares for everyone despite his apparent absence in this world of war and suffering. Louie remembers the day in the doldrums on the raft when he found peace and stillness, feeling as if some greater presence was offering him compassion.
The suffering Louie witnessed first hand during the war nearly swallowed his soul, making him see humankind’s horrifying capacity for evil. But Graham’s sermon reflects Louie’s own epiphany on the raft: a belief that, despite so much suffering, his own and other people’s, there is a God.
Confused and frustrated by his feelings, Louie is about to leave the tent when he has the last flashback of his life. He feels himself back on the raft on the day he made his promise to God: “If you will save me, I will serve you forever.” Louie heads back into the tent, suddenly feeling more alive than he has in years.
Louie is in the midst of a battle for his soul. His dark side compels him to violence and revenge while his good side yearns to be closer to the goodness and compassion that God represents. He has been fighting to try to overcome the effects of what has happened to him, but suddenly here he finds redemption in giving up on fighting and instead redirecting his energy towards serving.
At home, Louie dumps out all his stashed alcohol into the sink. For the first time since arriving in the U.S., he doesn’t dream of the Bird that night. The next morning he finds an old Bible and goes to sit under a tree. He realizes that a divine love had saved him from the war and that the Bird had not broken him. Letting go of his anger and his humiliation, Louie feels like a “new creation” and begins to weep softly to himself.
Before and during the war, defiance gave Louie the resilience to overcome limitations, but now he finds a new kind of resilience not in defiance but in love: a belief in God that allows him to give up the need to get revenge on Bird (or anyone else) for the terrible things he experienced. By dumping out his alcohol, Louie gives up the self-destructive and dignity-robbing “tools” of his defiance and fight against of his memories, and in the process. As Louie escapes his mental prison, he experiences a symbolic rebirth like the one he had in the Hokura river. Religion makes him feel like a “new creation” – it is as if faith provides him with a blank slate on which to remake his identity anew.