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 Louie a reason to live, allowing him to recover from the psychological traumas of the war.
But traditional religious belief isn’t the only kind of belief in the book. Louie’s family had faith that he was alive despite the U.S. Army’s announcement that he was killed in action. This faith kept the family from falling apart and succumbing to unbearable grief. Similarly, before Louie found religion, his faith in himself and in his abilities gave him the confidence he needed to survive the trails of POW camp.
The book also shows that people who lack faith in themselves become cruel and violent. For example, the Japanese army’s rejection of Watanabe’s application to be an officer caused him to lose faith in himself, which Hillenbrand argues prompted him to torture others in order to derive a sense of power and significance. In this context, Unbroken illustrates that a deep-rooted faith in one’s own value is a necessity for moral decency.
Belief and Faith ThemeTracker
Belief and Faith Quotes in Unbroken
That night, before he tried to sleep, Louie prayed. He had prayed only once before in his life, in childhood, when his mother was sick and he had been filled with a rushing fear that he would lose her. That night on the raft, in words composed in his head, never passing his lips, he pleaded for help.
Louise cried and prayed. From the stress, open sores broke out all over her hands. Sylvia thought her hands looked like raw hamburger. Somewhere in those jagged days, a fierce conviction came over Louise. She was absolutely certain that her son was alive.
Mac had never seen combat, didn’t know these officers, and was largely an unknown quantity to himself. All he knew about his ability to cope with this crisis was that on the first night, he had panicked and eaten the only food they had. As time passed and starvation loomed, this act took on greater and greater importance, and it may have fed Mac’s sense of futility.
They bowed their heads together as Louie prayed. If God would quench their thirst, he vowed, he’d dedicate his life to him. The next day, by divine intervention or the fickle humors of the tropics, the sky broke open and rain poured down. Twice more the water ran out, twice more they prayed, and twice more the rain came.
In Sugamo Prison, as he was told of Watanabe’s fate, all Louie saw was a lost person, a life now beyond redemption. He felt something that he had never felt for his captor before. With a shiver of amazement, he realized that it was compassion. At that moment, something shifted sweetly inside him. It was forgiveness, beautiful and effortless and complete. For Louie Zamperini, the war was over.