Dr. Gwen Hunnicutt
The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer
In The Executioner’s Song, Norman Mailer captures the complexity of social life, the tangle of human experience after tragedy, and the ripple effects of violence across generations, institutions, time and space. Mailer also chronicles the public’s ambivalence about justice, death, violence, authority and power. Ultimately, this tragic but beautifully told story leaves us in a world in which absolute concepts of good and evil no longer make sense and all moral action is painted with shades of grey. This text indelibly altered my own thinking about contemporary American social problems. One of my goals as a teacher is that my students leave my class with the ability to tolerate ambiguity, contradiction, and complexity when studying violence, while rejecting the temptation of simplistic moral assessments. Norman Mailer’s work embodies this intellectual practice. At 1072 pages, The Executioner’s Song is too long to assign as required course reading, but I recommend it to my students every semester.