All he needs is somebody to throw hand grenades at him the rest of his life.

Agito a42

Senior Member
Source: Full Metal Jacket (1987), a British-American film about the Vietnam War.

Joker and Rafterman were sent to Phu Bai, where they meet the members of the Lusthog Squad. After an exchange of a couple of witty remarks between Joker and Animal Mother (a member of the Lusthog), Eightball (another member of the Lusthog) steps between them, saying:
Now, you might not believe it but under fire, Animal Mother's one of the finest human beings in the world. All he needs is somebody to throw hand grenades at him the rest of his life.

Eightball's description is some kind of joke... or an insult. Could you explain it to me? I don't get it. Because a few moments later Animal Mother says to Eightball (who is black): "Hey, jungle-bunny, thank God for the sickle cell, huh?"
 
  • Agito a42

    Senior Member
    But why did "All he needs is somebody to throw hand grenades at him the rest of his life" make him say "Hey, jungle-bunny, thank God for the sickle cell, huh?". If it isn't an insult, then I can't see reasonable grounds for such a reaction from AM.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Animal Mother likes combat and confrontation – if the enemy isn't around, he'll turn on someone in his own platoon. You didn't ask if his "sickle cell" comment wasn't an insult: it is. But the sentence you're asking about is simply observation.

    The two sentences don't have to have the same intent, especially since they're spoken by different people. The original sentence about "hand grenades" is Eightball describing Animal Mother's love of conflict – and Animal Mother's comment to Eightball, who has just stood up for him, illustrates this. I think Eightball's observation is just a warning that Animal Mother is fine ... as long as you keep him occupied, which hand grenades would do.
     
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    Agito a42

    Senior Member
    He likes combat and confrontation – if the enemy isn't around, he'll turn on someone in his own platoon.
    describing Animal Mother's love of conflict
    Well, I sense I'm definitely missing something here.

    "All he needs is somebody to throw hand grenades at him the rest of his life."
    somebody = a Viet Cong, a Nazi or any other enemy against whom US will be waging war.
    to throw hand grenades at him = someone literally throws grenades at him during actual heavy engagements. The same as "to be under fire" (= someone literally fires a gun at him during engagements).

    Do these phrases have more figurative meanings?
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    They are literal sentences, although it could be anyone throwing hand grenades – as long as Animal Mother is fully occupied with life-and-death things, he will stay out of ordinary trouble and be "one of the finest human beings in the world."

    But if no one is shooting at him, he'll look for trouble, even with his own mates – as he is with his "sickle cell" comment to Eightball. (I gather you understand why that is an insult.)

    I know from experience that if you train people to fight and there's no enemy around to fight, they will fight each other.
     
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    Agito a42

    Senior Member
    I think I get it now. Correct me if I'm wrong, does "All he needs is somebody to throw hand grenades at him the rest of his life" suggest that if nothing keeps him busy (there's no one to fight), then he pesters everyone around, it's hard to deal with him, and as a person, he is a total failure.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Basically, yes ... but I might end with "it's hard to deal with him, and as a person, he's someone who don't want to be around in normal circumstances."

    He's like a guard dog – if someone is trying to break into your house, he will be fully focused on that event, but if nothing's happening, he will tear up the house just out of boredom.
     

    Agito a42

    Senior Member
    Thank you, Copyright. I now see "the finest human beings in the world" from the previous sentence in a different light. I thought it meant "skillful", but what Eightball actually mean is that Animal Mother is very pleasant to be around with when they (the squad) are under fire.
     

    jsausley

    New Member
    English
    It's a Flannery O'Connor reference.

    See "A Good Man Is Hard To Find."

    2. “She would have been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
     

    Agito a42

    Senior Member
    Thank you for your reply, jsausley, and welcome to the forum.

    I'm not an expert and don't know all the details of the story you quoted, but most likely either Gustav Hasford or Stanley Kubrick just borrowed the idea for their novel/movie.
     
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