Out of Sight Themes
by Elmore Leonard

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Out of Sight Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Leonard believes our personal moral code is what authenticates each of us. At the same time he recognizes how contemporary behavior often finds its role models in popular legends and Hollywood movies and later expresses itself in role-playing, posturing, costumes and disguises, and pretending. Characters compare their behavior to long-dead gangsters and celluloid heroes. Leonard celebrates all this to some extent—Out of Sight is a funny novel, as Leonard's work is often funny—yet still he insists there comes a time when illusions must be set aside, that sooner or later the pretending must stop. These illusions are not, he suggests, the tools we can rely on to survive.

The popular legend Leonard borrows from most is the Depression era exploits of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. While trapped with escaped convict Jack Foley in the trunk of the getaway car speeding down the freeway, Sisco asks Foley, "You must see yourself as some kind of desperado." Foley, surprised by her comment, ruminates, saying, "I never actually thought of myself that way." And then he adds, "Unless I did without knowing it. Like some of those boys of yesterday. Clyde Barrow—you ever see pictures of him, the way he wore his hat? You could tell he had that don't-give-ashit air about him." In the darkness of the trunk, they spend the next few minutes (and miles) discussing the infamous shootout near Gibsland, Louisiana. Foley considers that "it wouldn't be a bad way to go, if you have to."

Posturing is important to all characters. There are social games being played. To be cool is most important. Perhaps the greatest example of this is when Foley discovers Karen Sisco is in Detroit; a photograph of Karen taken outside the federal courthouse in Miami appears in the Detroit newspaper. "In the two-column photo Karen, in a tailored black suit, straight skirt, black bag hanging from her left shoulder, is holding a Remington pump-action shotgun, the butt of the stock resting on her cocked hip, the barrel extending above her on an angle, his right hand gripping the gun just above the trigger guard. Karen wears dark glasses and is looking past the camera, her lips slightly parted. The outline reads: LA FEMME KAREN."

Pretending is a theme throughout the novel. Initially two prison football teams are each pretending they're the Dallas Cowboys as they play each other, just as the Cowboys will be playing in the upcoming Superbowl. Role-playing is part and parcel, too. Car thief and ex-con Glenn Michaels is the link between the two old pro bank robbers, the Detroit psychopaths, and their target. He wears sunglasses even while watching movies. As always in Leonard's novels, his characters have been profoundly influenced by Hollywood movies. They take time out to watch them, they explain their actions in light of certain movies, they pattern their behavior after these celluloid figures.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and what happens out of sight, where the...

(The entire section is 761 words.)