Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Pentagon. Mammoth government building located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., that houses the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense. Norman Mailer refers to the structure as the “true and high church” of the military-industrial complex, “the blind five-sided eye of a subtle oppression which had come to America out of the very air of the century.” It is portrayed as a geometrical anomaly, an aberration rising from the Virginia fields, a misfit to its natural surroundings, and a creature deserving of its isolation. Nonetheless, the building’s overwhelming size appears to dwarf not only the capital’s monuments but also the demonstrators themselves. On Mailer’s landscape, the structure sits as a mighty fortress. He notes in the beginning that it is not the demonstrators’ intent to capture it, but to symbolically wound it. Tellingly, it appears to have no need for visible guards, since the extensions of the edifice serve as its own defense. Every feature of the building is described as “anonymous, monstrous, massive, interchangeable.” Even the parking lot, utilized by the demonstrators as a staging point for their final approach, is of massive proportions. According to the author, however, it is the size of the crowd that in the end is more significant than the participants, the speeches, or the government structures.

*Lincoln Memorial

*Lincoln Memorial. Washington, D.C., monument honoring the sixteenth president of the United States, which serves as the starting point for the march on the Pentagon. The sound of a...

(The entire section is 660 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bailey, Jennifer. Norman Mailer: Quick-Change Artist. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1979. Particularly attentive to Mailer’s creation of personae, Bailey analyzes The Armies of the Night as his finest achievement in fictional journalism.

Bufithis, Philip H. Norman Mailer. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1978. In his lucid survey of Mailer’s career, Bufithis pays particular attention to Mailer’s characterization of himself and to the presences of Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Ernest Hemingway in The Armies of the Night, while praising the book as unmatched in drama, energy, and wit since Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography.

Kazin, Alfred. “The Trouble He’s Seen.” In Critical Essays on Norman Mailer, edited by J. Michael Lennon. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1986. Kazin’s extended and enthusiastic review places Mailer’s book within the context of his career and of American literature.

Merrill, Robert. Norman Mailer. Boston: Twayne, 1978. Focusing on the unique structure of what he argues is Mailer’s most enduring work, Merrill examines its protagonist’s experience as a rite of purification.

Solotaroff, Robert. Down Mailer’s Way. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1974. Noting parallels to Henry Adams, Solotaroff offers insightful analysis of the style and the distance between author and protagonist in The Armies of the Night.