Anything for Billy

by Larry McMurtry
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In Anything for Billy, why were people willing to do everything for Billy?

There is no justifiable reason why the characters would do anything for Billy in the story, although Ben Sippy says it is out of sympathy. Billy is an irresponsible young murderer who does not really know what he is doing. The admiration Billy receives is thus a paradox that reveals the absurdity of devotion to celebrity figures.

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The characters’ devotion to Billy reveals the ways in which the idolization of rebellious American Westerners is a paradox. Billy is not a compassionate hero who saves people; rather, he is a young murderer who does not seem appreciative of the affection he receives. Through the character of Billy, author Larry McMurtry explores the ways in which Americans associate violence, youth, and rebellion with the concept of a hero. McMurty also explores how celebrities are created through legends and highlights the unfounded nature of devotion to celebrity figures.

The character of Ben Sippy narrates the story and he explains that he stuck with Billy out of sympathy. On one hand, sympathy may in fact be part of the reason he would do anything for Billy. However, Sippy was older than Billy, and he knew that there was no real motive or justification for many of Billy’s actions. Thus, Sippy’s loyalty is more complex than just pity. Consider how Sippy describes his life as boring and how he is tied down by his responsibilities to his wife and nine daughters. The idea of Billy’s carefree cowboy life evidently contained a glimmer of excitement for Sippy, who was stuck in a mundane lifestyle.

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