The novel, Death Be Not Proud, by John Gunther, is the story of the struggle of a child to stay alive. Johnny Gunther Jr.’s constant hope got him out of bed every morning with a positive attitude. His outright opposition to the fact that he was going to die and his determination not to, kept a fiery spirit in him so that he didn’t give up. Johnny’s stubborn determination to not accept defeat at so early an age, along with the tremendous courage he showed when realizing that he must accept his defeat, is a strong point portrayed in this novel. Johnny’s hope, determination, and courage kept his death at bay.
One of the main reasons that Johnny remained alive for so much longer than he should have lived, was the hope that he possessed. He hoped every day of his illness that he would get better, that his parents would be spared their grief, or that some doctor would come up with a revolutionary idea that would heal him. Because of his hope, Johnny never complained or protested during the entire course of his illness. He always obeyed the doctors’ wishes and followed their instructions to a “T” because he wanted so desperately to get well. Although he realized that eventually his life would end, he still never gave up the hope that perhaps he could outsmart his fate to die, if just to steal a few extra hours. Each day, until his last, the determination Johnny had to get well, live a normal life, and even maintain his schoolwork was phenomenal. After being away from school for sixteen months, being tested constantly by doctors, and having a rapidly deteriorating brain, Johnny still managed to graduate with his class and be accepted into Harvard.
Throughout his illness, Johnny always had an unwavering will to survive, to awake the next morning and find that he was well, that he had only been dreaming the nightmare of his illness. When Johnny awoke each morning however, he felt the bandage on his head and realized that he was living this horrific nightmare. But even through this tremendous disappointment, Johnny kept fighting, determined to recuperate. Johnny should be admired for not giving up under the intense emotional burden of knowing that each breath may be his last. Johnny’s story is one that will be remembered because of the courage he had. If he had had any fears of death, they were unknown because of his consideration for others and not wanting to burden others with his troubles.
One can only imagine what it must have been like to lie awake at night alone in a hospital room, wondering what it is like to die and to awaken the next morning, shed all questions and fears of the night before, and cheerfully greet those around you. Johnny’s inner struggle and turmoil was something that no one knows nor will ever know. Throughout his many medical treatments and moments of pain, Johnny was always strong and brave. He always smiled and hung in there fighting. Even with his final unconscious breath, there was still animation in him, he was still determined to live. Thankfully he died with a smile on his lips, without pain, with dignity, and with courage and strength to face the next world he would enter. Johnny’s gallant fight for life, against the most hopeless odds, should convey a message to anyone who has ever been ill. Through a child’s hope, determination and courage when about to die, a for of a hero is made.
Johnny’s manner in facing the awful reality of dying is something that is looked up to by all and we should all strive to achieve this manner. Johnny Gunther accepted his fate to die and not live his life to the fullest with complete acceptance, if not full understanding. By the story of his life and death, we are in awe of how one so young could have achieved an attitude that most people will never reach.
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