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Mailer takes a two-semester writing course (1940–1941) from Robert Gorham Davis, who becomes his first writing mentor. He writes several stories for the class, including “The Greatest Thing in the World” (41.1).

In April, Mailer is accepted to the editorial board of the college's literary magazine, The Harvard Advocate, which that same month publishes “The Greatest Thing in the World.” In late spring, it wins Story magazine's eighth annual college contest and a $100 prize, and gains some attention from New York publishers. In May, he is elected to the Signet Society, a merit-based luncheon club. In September, completes "No Percentage", a novel (408 manuscript pages) set in Long Branch and Brooklyn, still unpublished.

In mid-December, meets his first wife, Beatrice Silverman, a Boston University music major who lives in nearby Chelsea.