Spare Parts Summary and Study Guide

Buzz Williams

Spare Parts

  • 39-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 10 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a professional writer with an MFA in Creative Writing
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Spare Parts Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 39-page guide for “Spare Parts” by Buzz Williams includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 10 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Education and Place, and a Lack of It.

Plot Summary

After his brother Lenny joins the Marine Corps, Williams dreams of following in his footsteps. When Lenny dies a few years later, Williams joins the Marine Reserves. For a year he serves as a “weekend warrior,” while attending college, until, in August of 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army invades Kuwait. Williams’s unit is activated in November and he is forced to leave college and go to war.

Through training, deployment, and eventually combat, Williams journeys toward becoming a Marine. As a reservist, he is labeled a “spare part,” a replacement. But since Williams wants to live up to his brother’s legacy, his own ideas of keeping his country safe, and his image of what it means to be a Marine, he is not only fighting against Iraq, but against the belief that any soldier is a spare part.

During Operation Desert Shield, Williams experiences the difficulties of war: the exhaustion, the hunger, the anger that Marine Corps training has instilled in him. During Operation Desert Storm, he sees the real horrors: the deaths, the torture, the loss of his fellow Marines. He also sees the results of sending Marines into combat without proper training, and he works hard, not only during the war, but both before and after, to improve the training all Marines receive.

Williams often feels out of place, both as a Reservist, in training with active-duty Marines, and as a soldier, serving in combat with them. He also feels out of place in college classes. At his reserve drills, he sees the other Marines as belonging to a brotherhood: “It was a sense of belonging I hoped to be a part of one day” (60).

It is only after combat, where Williams performs honorably as he serves alongside active-duty Marines, that he finds a sense of belonging. Much of the book is about this sense of belonging, being not a “spare part,” but part of a larger brotherhood. After combat, Williams institutes a Young Marines program at the school where he teaches, trying to instill a sense of belonging in the special-needs students with whom he works. And though he eventually leaves the Marines for graduate school and a life of teaching others, he carries with him the values he learned in the Marine Corps.

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