Determined to Survive

“Can we get something to eat? I’m so hungry I feel like I’m starving!” I exclaimed to my dad “my last meal was three hours ago!” I never actually experienced the real pain of not having a meal for a day, much less 47. Louis Zamperini, a tenacious Californian boy with a rebellious Italian spirit, spent 47 days adrift in the Pacific Ocean with nothing to eat but shark liver and scraps of a bird. In her best-selling historical narrative, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption Laura Hillenbrand captivates audiences with the portrayal of what it was like being on the raft for those gruesome days, and later, in horrible prison camps. Despite the suffering of Louie Zamperini, he stayed determined, cared for others, and maintained hope while on the raft and in captivity.

Louis Zamperini continued to stay determined throughout the novel, especially when adversity was right in front of him. Louie managed to overcome his body breaking down by staying mentally sharp and determined to get out of each situation alive and vigorous. While the men were afloat in the Pacific Ocean, their bodies were deteriorating and fading fast. Their minds had to stay strong and capable to withstand what their bodies could not, “Louie was determined that no matter what happened to their bodies, their minds would stay under their control...Soon Phil and Louie turned the raft into a nonstop quiz show” (152). Louie's determination allowed the men to stay strong where it mattered, in their minds. Their minds had to stay sharp because their bodies could not. Zamperini thought back to what his professor said in college, he remembered that his mind would atrophy if left idle. The mind would deteriorate, leaving the body hopeless if left disregarded. This showed the determination to survive despite the circumstances they were in. Phil and Louis distracted each other and Mac by distracting their minds from the pain of their bodies, thus allowing their minds to stay sharp and their bodies not in as much pain. The best example of Louie's determination and grit was when he was in a POW camp with “The Bird.” The Bird was a horrible Japanese army corporal that beat Louie everyday he was held captive. Louie was The Bird’s favorite victim, and beat him to no end because Louie was a “famous” runner. The Bird made Louie race another Japanese runner and when he lost he was beaten and when he won he was beaten. The Bird also made Louie take care of a deathly sick goat, and he said if the goat dies then Louie dies. The goat did end up dying because Louie wasn’t able to save a sick goat. The Bird made Louie hold a beam over his head and if he dropped the beam he said Louie will be beaten nearly to death. Louie had the discipline of a runner, but the pain of holding this beam over his head was unmatched. Louie looked at The Bird while being beaten “he felt his consciousness slipping, his mind losing adhesion, until all he knew was a single thought: He cannot break me” (302). Louie's persistence to beat The Bird came from a deep vengeance and a determination to triumph and overcome. 

Louie Zamperini was also a fearless leader that sought for community and cared for others throughout the narrative. Leading and caring for others gave Louie a purpose to press on and endure whatever came his way. Zamperini was very empathetic to those who he encountered, especially while face to face with death. While adrift in the ocean, Louie took up the responsibility of being the leader of the crew. The chocolate that was on the life raft would be their only supply of food for as long as they could survive. Louie split all of the chocolate evenly, so that the men could survive together as they get the same portions of food. Later that night, in a panic, Mac ate all the chocolate because he was so afraid of the unknown. Louie told Mac “he was disappointed in him, but understanding Mac had acted in a panic, he reassured them “they would soon be saved” (108). Louie portrayed leadership by staying optimistic and not getting frustrated with Mac even though Mac could have been the cause of their deaths. Louie's optimism is admirable because even in times where he is oblivious to what is going to happen next, he stays hopeful he is going to get out of any situation brought before him. Another example of Louie demonstrating leadership is when he was in the POW camp with all the other prisoners that were starving and weak. Despite the difficult conditions, Louie continued to stay persistent while enduring starvation and beatings daily. As the prisoners received aid from the Allies once they knew about the camp, they stayed hopeful for rescue. Once they received Red Cross boxes, Louie gave his box to another prisoner named Harris. Harris was deteriorating because of the physical toll on his body, and although Louie was also suffering, he said giving his box to Harris was the “hardest and easiest thing he ever did” (277). Louie giving his box to Harris was extremely selfless of him and demonstrates how he cares for others. The easy part of giving Harris his box was because of Harris’ health, it seems like the choice was a no-brainer, but in fact it was very difficult because Louie was also starving and feeble. Louie's selfless acts and leadership gave him purpose to keep fighting for his life and for the life of others. 

Louie displayed his optimism throughout the historical narrative while maintaining his faith. Louie managed to stay hopeful for rescue on the raft and in captivity while enduring strenuous situations. While all three men were on the raft yearning for just a drop of water, they continued to persevere through the worst time of their lives. During this time all three men came together and “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, the sky broke open and rain poured down”(159). Louie illustrates his desire for something bigger, he needed to hold on to his optimism to get through each grueling day. Another example of Louie maintaining his optimistic faith is when he was in the POW camp getting beat daily. The suffering of each day made Louie desire for rescue more and more. While in the treacherous POW camp, “Louie spent hour after hour in prayer, begging for God to save him” (258). Zamperini didn’t let anything adhere his faith and persistence, and is commendable because it would have been simple to give up. This shows how persistent Louie was as he stayed hopeful for rescue and was desperate for a savior. Because he maintained faith while on the raft and in captivity, Louie stayed determined to get out alive. 

Louie’s determination and persistence were crucial for his survival and aided him in his pursuit to maintain his optimism and his faith. Due to Louie seeking community and helping others, he found a purpose in being a leader and managed to stay hopeful and determined to get out alive. Louie Zamperini was extremely admirable because he was not only a leader, he was a hero. The story of Louis demonstrates the effects of staying persistent in rough times, caring for others even when it’s difficult, and maintaining hope for just a chance of survival.