Set around the time of World War I, the novel with its—then particularly inconvenient—anti-war message, was first published in 1939. The book came into true prominence during the Vietnam war era, after its author had re-emerged from McCarthyist blacklisting throughout the 1950s.
The central device of Trumbo’s novel is the body of the protagonist, a young American soldier who, incredibly, has lost his face and both arms and legs during combat. Unable to see, speak, hear, smell, or act, he is fully conscious, but seemingly completely without agency. As he struggles to come to terms with his personal tragedy, he strains to communicate with ‘the outside world.’
The entire book was written without commas, though all other punctuation conforms to established conventions. The term comma is derived from Greek komma, meaning 'something cut off.' The film marks the location where commas would appear according to the Chicago Style Manual.