Unspoken Laws in Billy Bathgate
With the introduction into gang life comes opportunities for wealth, women, status and power all with the convenient diffusion of any criminal or moral responsibility. Like any society, the secret world of criminal gangs has its own set of stringent expectations and rules that must be followed. In E. L. Doctorow’s Billy Bathgate, the secret world of Schultz’s New York gang empire is revealed through the eyes of the young protagonist, Billy Bathgate. During a time when the grave effects of the depression had trickled down into nearly every community, the opportunity to partake in the privy, elite, prosperous network posed by Schultz was the manifestation of all that Billy could hope for. In his short time tagging along with the gang, Billy realizes that while loyalty and appeasing the boss are fundamental rules to remember to survive, once ensnared--gang life is inescapable. Dutch Schultz’s rising young protégée, Billy must accept the rules that accompany him with his introduction into the new realm of gang life. Billy’s success partly comes from his risk-taking, but through his observations he quickly learns some rules must be adhered to if he is to not only maintain the favor of his mentor, but avoid the same unfavorable end as others. As seen in his journey from a lost young boy to an affiliate in Schultz’s dangerous gang, as one assimilates into a new realm, ones’s identity invariable alters and adapts with new rules and expectations.
In the gangster society, for an operation to be successful loyalty is not only paramount, but vital for survival. The consequences of crossing this rule is one of the first introductions Billy has to the darker side of what he once glamorized. In the first sc...
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... with his mother raising the child he has with Drew. However, Billy knows his life as the boy he once was is over and acknowledges the permanent effects of his connections with the gang, in possession of Schultz’s money he is knowingly watched by the other mobsters, and must be constantly aware of his past because of it.
In his time with the gang, Billy observes how loyalty and appeasing the boss are fundamental rules for survival within the network of a gang, while changing oneself is a necessarily ability for survival and later how the dangerous lifestyle itself has its own rule: once in a gang always in a gang. Gang members may be divided from the rest of society—abiding by their own laws and lifestyles—but human nature’s inherent, essential need to adapt and survive within a situation or group will always be an integral part in their ever changing identity.
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