Analyse Of The Violent American Far West In The Book "The Collected Works Of Billy The Kid" (1996) By Michael Ondaatje.

1097 words - 4 pages

As Hollywood has so clearly mythologized through movies such as The Duke and Dirty Harry, being an outlaw in the Far West seemed to be a very risky way of life. Michael Ondaatje showed just how violent this part of American history might have been by writing a book about one of the West's most notorious outlaws, a book appropriately called The Collected Works of Billy The Kid. The Far West in this book is strongly violent, cruel and pitiless. The character Billy The Kid as well as attitudes of other characters in the book such the brutal Pat Garrett who does not hesitate to use violence to make the law rule.The West in Ondaatje is strongly violent, which is mainly exposed through Billy the Kid. His real name is William Bonney and killed his first man when he was twelve. By the time he was twenty-one he had, by his own will, slain nineteen more. In the following years he had become the mythologized Billy the Kid, bloodthirsty ogre and outlaw saint; "a boy with buck teeth and a pleasant face who could shoot a stranger calmly in the heart and walk away while birds ravaged the corpse"(56). In fact, Billy takes his killer job very serious and never uses his left hand except to shoot people. He wanted to keep his hand always strong by this way. Sheriff Pat Garrett, Billy's killer, said that Billy "never used his left hand for anything except of course to shoot. He wouldn't even pick up a mug of coffee" (43).Many times in the book, Billy is shown violently killing enemies, sometimes with a reason, sometimes without one. For example, he shot a man named Gregory without any reason: "I'd shot him (Gregory) well and careful made it explode under his heart so it wouldn't last long and was about to walk away when this chicken paddles out to him and as he was falling hops on his neck digs the break into his throat straightens legs and heaves a red and blue vein out" (15). The graphic imagery here is more extreme than in Hollywood Western; Ondaatje brings a horror to this myth.It is not just Billy who is exceedingly violent, but his community as well. Billy is also pitiless, which is clearly shown in the book when he murders the deputy sheriff J.W.Bell and Bob Ollinger, "What he [Billy] did was to seduce young Bell into a cardgame, shot him, then shot Ollinger returning from lunch. Nobody cared about Ollinger, but Bell was liked. You know how Ollinger used to kill people? He'd go up to them about to shake hands, then grab their right hand with his left, lift out his pistol and fire into the chest. So Bell and Ollinger died and Billy escaped. Also on the way out of town he hit a man named Ellery Fleck in the face, with his rifle, for no reason at all. He was probably elated."(86). People in the book live in a brutal society and the number of deaths proves all this rate of violence, "In Boot Hill there are over 400 graves. It takes the space of 7 acres. (...) 300 of the dead in Boot Hill died violently 200 by guns, over 50 by knives some were pushed under trains...

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