The Narrator’s Attitude in The Pugilist at Rest

The Narrator’s Attitude in The Pugilist at Rest

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The Narrator’s Attitude in The Pugilist at Rest        

Webster’s Dictionary defines it as a mental position or the

feeling one has for oneself.  In life our attitudes help define who you are

or what you are like.  Attitude helps create your personality and how you

would react under certain situations.  In “The Pugilist at Rest” Thom Jones

tells us of one man’s attitude and how adversity and a disability changed

his attitude completely.  The narrator’s attitude under goes changes from

boot camp, bludgeoning Hey Baby,  recon Marine duty and finally obtaining

Dostoyevski’s epilepsy from a boxing match.

            The narrator of the story undergoes changes in boot camp that will forever

change his attitude towards life and his fellow Marines.  The story begins

by showing a young foolish narrator that only wanted to charge into battle. 

The narrator wanted to be all he could be and strived to become the best

United States Marine Corp soldier the United States has to offer.  Jones

describes the narrator’s determination and ambitions as, “Whenever danger

appears on the scene, truth and justice will be served as I slip into the

green U.S.M.C. utility uniform and become Earth’s greatest hero.” (485). 

The narrator’s attitude would be altered drastically by a motivating speech

that his Sergeant delivered to the boot camp.  Jones describes this speech

as, “You men are going off to war, and it’s not a pretty thing,’ etc. &

etc., ‘and if Luke the Gook knocks down one of your buddies, a fellow

Marine, you are going to risk your life and go in and get that Marine and

you are going to bring him out.  Not because I said so. No!  You are going

after that Marine because you are a Marine, a member of the most elite

fighting force in the world, and that man out thee who’s gone down is a

Marine, and he’s your buddy.  He is you brother!  Once you are a Marine, you

are always a Marine and you will never let another Marine down.’ Etc. & etc.

  ‘You can take a Marine out of the Corps but you can’t take the Corps out

of a Marine.’ Etc. & etc.  At the time it seemed to me a very good speech,

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and it stirred me deeply.” (483).  This speech would change the narrator’s

attitude from I am going to be the best Marine to I am going to be the best

Marine I can be to make our platoon the best damn platoon in the Marine

Corps.  This speech also gave the narrator a sentimental feeling about the

Marine Corps.  A feeling that the Marine Corps is his family and that they

will be there for him; therefore, he should be there for them.  He  believed

the Marine Corp’s moral ideals and took the training to heart.  He was

becoming a soldier that was obedient to authority.  He was becoming a

trained killer.  He was becoming a United States Marine.

            At the end of boot camp the nasty shove by Hey Baby to Jorgeson would test

just how loyal the narrator is to his Marine Corp’s morals.  The narrator

without hesitation protected his Marine Corp brother Jorgeson from the

aggressor Hey Baby.  The narrator acts upon his instincts of protecting his

Marine Corp brother even though it is from another Marine Corp brother.  The

narrator didn’t believe that Hey Baby has the loyalty that is required to be

a Marine; therefore, the narrator didn’t regard Hey Baby as a Marine but as

an enemy attacking one of his Marine Corp brothers.  The narrator upheld the

Marine Corp attitude or moral of protecting his brethren because he held

their morals very sacred.  The narrator also demonstrated  a big change in

attitude.  Being able to kill or seriously hurt another human being with no

regrets.   Jones describes the narrator’s inner monologue as, “I was a

skilled boxer, and I knew the temple was a vulnerable spot; the human skull

is otherwise hard and durable; except at its base.  There was a sickening

crunch, and Hey Baby dropped into the ice plants along the side of the

company street.”(485).  Jones goes on to describe, “To tell you the truth, I

wouldn’t have cared in the least if I had killed him. . . . My heart was

pounding out of my chest.  Yet the larger part of me didn’t care.  Jorgeson

was my buddy, and I wasn’t going to stand still and let someone fuck him

over.” (485).  The narrator completed his change from a foolish youngster,

with a lets charge attitude, to trained lethal Marine, with a Marine Corp

attitude,  with the killing of Hey Baby.  The narrator proved he had the

ideals of the Marine Corp and he showed he will do whatever it takes with no

regrets when his Marine Corp ideals are in danger.

            Next, The narrator’s promotion to recon Marine changed his attitude by

showing, him that he is not going to live forever and that he is not

invincible.  Going into the recon Marine duty the narrator had an attitude

that he is a Marine; therefore, he is the best soldier there is in the

combat field.  Even though this could very well be true the narrator learns

that even the best can be killed very easily in battle.  During the

narrator’s duty with the recon Marines his platoon was ambushed.  Every

member of the platoon was killed except the narrator.  Even his Marine

brother Jorgeson was killed saving the narrator’s life like a true Marine. 

After seeing his entire platoon ambushed and brutally killed the narrator

began to see that in the war lives were very insignificant in the

government’s big picture.  Jones writes a passage that shows the narrators

vulnerable feelings and attitudes: “We are like lambs in a field, disporting

themselves under the eye of the butcher, who chooses out first one and then

another for his prey.  So it is that in our good days we are all unconscious

of the evil Fate may have presently in store for us--sickness, poverty,

mutilation, loss of sight or reason.” (489).  Jones goes on to write, “He

was like the rest of us--eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old.  What did we

know about life?  Before Vietnam, Hanes didn’t think he would ever die.  I

mean, yes, he knew that in theory he would die, but he felt like he was

going to live forever.”(490).  The narrator’s recon Marine duty changed his

attitude to give him a sense of susceptibility and vulnerability.

            After the ambush the narrator is out for revenge for his dead Marine

brothers.  The narrator served three tours to fulfill a need for revenge

created by the Marine Corps moral ideals.  The narrator was out for blood of

his platoon’s killers.  Jones describes the narrator’s soul as “(having) a

reservoir of malice, poison, and vicious sadism.” (492).  The narrator

became the ultimate combat soldier.  A man without conscious and inner

morals.  The narrator didn’t think about why he is fighting or whom he is

fighting and he didn’t seem to care.  The narrator became a perfectly brain

washed Marine.  A person that didn’t ask questions or that didn’t think on

his own.  He became a senseless killer.  A person that only followed the

Marine ideals that were forced into his head from the first day of boot

camp.  The ideal that you revenge your killed Marine brothers and don’t

think about what you have done.  At this point in the story the narrator is

a perfectly brain washed Marine that is completely obedient to authority.

            Lastly, the narrator takes part in a boxing match that would change his

attitude towards God and life forever.  After the narrator earned metals for

his three terms he decided to take up boxing.  His first match was to box a

kid that has demolished every opponent that had been in the ring with him. 

The narrator fought the kid all twelve rounds and pulled a decision victory

out of the bout.  But, the narrator sustained blows in that match that lead

to serious psychological trauma.  The narrator developed Dostoyevski’s

epilepsy from the match.   After the fight the narrator went through a down

period or reflective period.  The narrator began to seriously look in debt

at God for the first time in his life.  The narrator first looked deeper

into God because he encounters an aura feeling right before he has a

seizure.  He believes that this aura is a time in which he was directly

linked to God.  As Jones puts it, the narrator begins to believe that he has

a “sacred disease”.(494).  The narrator undergoes a religious awakening

which he hopes will save him in his afterlife from eternal damnation.

            From boot camp, to bludgeoning Hey Baby, to recon Marine duty and to

developing Dostoyevski’s epilepsy the narrator’s attitude changed each time

to fit his needs.  The narrator began the story as a young foolish kid and

at the end he was an older wiser person that learned from these events. 

Each of these events helps shape him into the deep reflective man in the end

of the story.  A man that can only pray and hope for a peaceful eternity for

all the atrocities he has committed in his life.

Works Cited:

Jones, Thom. The Pugilist at Rest. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1993.
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