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Norman Mailer’s book The Executioner’s Song

Anger is a very powerful emotion. Anger generates hostility and a loss of control. It can tear into a person’s heart and ruin them. We see this in Norman Mailer’s book The Executioner’s Song. The main character, Gary Gilmore, demonstrates so much anger that his blind rage leads to murder. There are many sources of anger that lead Gary to commit the violent murders that he has. We see that Gary has a lot of pent up anger in him. This is shown in a number of instances. When Gary Gilmore was first put in jail he was 22 years old.

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As we hear through his depiction of prison life he spent a lot of time in solitary confinement and enjoyed telling people of his “hard-core” criminal ways. He stabbed a man 57 times for no reason at all. While in jail, Gary is placed in solitary confinement for four years of his sentence because he is unable to have normal relations with other convicts. This is not the behavior that a “normal” person exhibits. Gary also seems to be uncontrollable. He is proud of the fact that he had stolen. “By the time he was 14, Gilmore said, he’d broken into 50 houses. Maybe more. 354)

Gilmore also states that he stole from stores, such as J. C. Penney’s. He boasts about this to his cellmate Gibbs. He also picked fights frequently and fought very unfairly. In a rage Gary attacked Pete for making an accusation about Gary trying to get into a young girl’s pants. Pete was “slammed on the neck from behind,” by Gary. (124) Vern, Gary’s uncle who witnessed the fight, then questioned Gary’s manhood and integrity. Another uncontrollable urge that Gary had was the desire to rape females. He tried to convince Rikki, a friend of his, to partake in this action.

Besides not being able to control his sexual desires he was also abusive towards women when he became the slightest bit upset. “Gary finally wedged her [Nicole] into the space between the bucket seats and got his hand over her mouthHe had his other hand on her throat to hold her down. ” (156) He was also very casual about slapping Nicole across the face when he gotangry. Once again this proves that his anger dictates his actions. Gary is also rather short with people. He tends to dismiss people rather quickly. An example of this is when Brenda and he got into a discussion over the color of his eyes.

Gary got rather annoyed that Brenda thought they were blue and said, “Shut up and eat. ” (37) These accounts illustrate what Gary is capable of when his anger overtakes him. His anger ranges from drunken brawls, rape, abuse towards women, all the way to murder. However, we must examine the reasons and the sources that cause him to be this way. Whether it is due to a traumatic environmental upbringing, or external experiences in jail, something provoked this man’s anger. It is Nature vs. Nurture. We learn through Brenda, Gary’s cousin, that when they were little “he might be rough with other kids but never with her. ) He was quiet and smart.

However, Gary and Brenda’s family was rather large and somewhat of a lower class. This meant that special attention was not paid to them as much as one would expect. Perhaps this is what led Gary astray. His family life was strange. He was not fond of his father. We find this out when he is making comparisons with his cellmate, Gibbs. “Neither of them cared for their fathers. Both fathers were heavy drinkers and dead now. ” (368) We can now see why Gary has such a drinking problem. Maybe the alcohol is the reason he is so feared. His father was also a very mysterious man.

Not even his wife, Bessie, Gary’s mother, knew of his real father, Houdini, and his past or his real name. Perhaps Gary’s anger stems from his resentment that he has towards his father. The shadiness that Gary exhibits in terms of his personality and the violent streaks that occur without warning may have to do with the fact that his father kept most of his life to himself, and like Gary, was very much a man of mystery. Another reason for Gary’s anger may be learned from his time in prison. The reason for this is that he spent most of his life there. It is easy to see that he feels he is the same age as when he went in to prison.

We can see this by his choice in women. He only likes young girls, like Nicole who is 19. He also is very juvenile with the way he handles things. Some of the immature behavior he exhibits are bar fights and temper tantrums. Gary also remarked, “having been in prison so long he felt more like the victim than the man who did the deed. ” (7) Gary lacked a nurturing environment for an awfully long time. Maybe, this is why Gary is so self-pitying, and this pity may lead to his violence. He has also seen so much violence and danger in jail that it may have corrupted him.

The pain and violence that he endured can be seen when Brenda asked him why he had a scar on his face. Gary replied, “A guard hit me. They had me tied down for a shot of Prolixin-and I managed to spit in the doctor’s face. Then I got clobbered. ” (15) We can see that there are two very good reasons for the abnormal amount of violence that Gary exhibits. However, I believe that the reason for his anger and aggression is not due to his family and background, but due to the fact that prison is such a brutal environment to endure for such a long time. I think that it is fair to say that anyone’s personality could change from a lamb to a lion.

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