With The Armies of the Night, Mailer received the best reviews since the publication of The Naked and the Dead. Reviewers found his third-person treatment of himself as a character utterly convincing. Mailer’s narration seemed so credible because he dealt with all the important aspects of his character in conjunction with the complexity of events surrounding the march on the Pentagon. In other words, his original aim in The Naked and the Dead of showing the convergence of character and society was amply demonstrated in a mature, comic, and subtle work.
Mailer begins The Armies of the Night with his own reluctant agreement to participate in the march. He is at home trying to write when he gets a call from Mitchell Goodman, a friend urging him to come to Washington. At first, Mailer is petulant, advising Goodman that it behooves writers to write, not to engage in events that only take them away from their work. Mailer has to admit to himself, however, that he is not writing anything important at the moment and that he is really looking for excuses to duck a commitment.
Mailer’s ambivalence and early efforts to dominate events result in his drunken antics as master of ceremonies at the Ambassador Theater, where Robert Lowell, Dwight Macdonald, Paul Goodman, and other literary luminaries have gathered to read their work and to express their support for the march on the Pentagon. Mailer makes a spectacle of himself by trying to...
(The entire section is 607 words.)