Laura Hillenbrand

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Themes and Colors
Survival and Resilience Theme Icon
Dignity Theme Icon
Redemption and Forgiveness Theme Icon
War and Identity Theme Icon
Belief and Faith Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Unbroken, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Survival and Resilience

Hillenbrand identifies a thread of adversity and resilience in Louie’s pre-war life. As a child, Louie grew up poor but his defiance pushed him to rebel against the limitations he saw around him. At the time he expressed this defiance in inappropriate and destructive ways, acting delinquently and stealing from neighbors and local businesses. His beloved older brother, Pete, eventually helped straighten Louie out by giving him a new challenge: running. Louie poured his…

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One of the central conflicts of the novel centers on Louie’s struggle to preserve his dignity, which Hillenbrand argues is as important to survival as food and shelter, in the face of the dehumanizing conditions of the Japanese prison camps. Even before Louie arrives at the camps, Hillenbrand establishes the importance of dignity when Francis “Mac” McNamara succumbs to selfish desire and eats all the rations on the raft, a betrayal that made him lose…

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Redemption and Forgiveness

The cycles of wrongdoing and redemption that lie at the heart of the book illustrate how one can always atone for the crimes and sins of the past. At the beginning of the book, Louie is a juvenile delinquent, committing petty crimes, terrorizing the neighbors with pranks, and beating up other boys. Louie redeemed himself in the eyes of his community when he turns his energy to running and ends up competing in the Olympics…

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War and Identity

War is hell. But Unbroken shows that in the darkest moments of that hell, people discover their true natures. Louie, for example, made it through the war with greater self-knowledge. Stranded on the raft, Louie comes to know the full strength of his resolve and resourcefulness, surviving for over forty days. Likewise, in the prison camps, Louie discovers just how unbreakable his sense of self is. Though the Japanese prison guards try to erase…

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Belief and Faith

Unbroken argues that belief is a powerful, even essential, component for overcoming adversity. The suffering Louie witnessed first hand during the war nearly swallowed his soul, making him lose faith in himself and the essential goodness of humankind. But in the years after the war, Louie found salvation in the religious conviction that a compassionate and benevolent God cares and guides the world even during periods of global suffering and turmoil. Belief in God gave…

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