Existentialism, Violent Liberation, and Racialized Masculinities: Norman Mailer’s “The White Negro” and An American Dream
Excerpted from Masculinity and the Paradox of Violence in American Fiction, 1950-1975 and reprinted here with the permission of the author.
In Advertisements for Myself, his 1959 collection of excerpts and articles, Norman Mailer pauses to meditate on Ernest Hemingway’s influence on his own work. While he admits to a deep-seated admiration for his literary predecessor and acknowledges that Hemingway “did a lot of things which very few of us could do,” Mailer also believes that the author “pretended to be ignorant of the notion that it is not enough to feel like a man, one must try to think like a man as well.” While it is tempting to take issue with this assessment of Hemingway, the statement’s significance to a study of Mailer’s work lies not necessarily in its accuracy but in its purpose, for in expressing this concern, Mailer implies that he, by contrast, will not pretend to ignore this point. And Mailer does, in fact, spend much of his literary career exploring what it means to “think like a man.” While Mailer’s representation of masculinity is controversial in that its reliance on various modes of violence — from interpersonal to misogynistic to political — does threaten to reify many of the oppressive social structures that Mailer and his protagonists find so restrictive, his body of work nevertheless offers significant insight into prevalent issues of conflicted gendered identity in American culture. Here, I aim to illuminate the oft-overlooked complexity of some of Mailer’s most infamous representations of masculinity. More specifically, I examine not only the ways that Mailer’s representations of masculinity paradoxically reinforce the oppressions he seeks to overturn through his protagonists’ violent rebellions, but also those moments when Mailer himself interrogates these violences and their roles in shaping gender identity.
Mailer’s meditations on masculinity revolve around an existential anxiety in the midst of what he continually refers to as a cancerous or decaying society. His existential theory also draws on the tenets of French existentialism; in fact, I would suggest that though he is often maligned as a reactionary, anti-feminist writer, Mailer adopts a project quite similar to that of Simone de Beauvoir. His early work indicates that the major similarities between his definition of existentialism and that of both Beauvoir and Sartre lie within two particular tenets: his view of individual liberation as a step towards transcendence, and the importance of the role of an Other in that project.[a] These existential themes are central to Mailer’s nonfiction essay “The White Negro” (1957) and his novel An American Dream (1965), two works that I believe most explicitly demonstrate the connections between existentialism, violence, and masculinity that pervade Mailer’s oeuvre.
In these narratives, Mailer fashions protagonists who articulate a sense of entrapment within a stagnant situation, one that is often described in terms of death and decay. Mailer depicts this decay as arising from an increasingly totalitarian society that enforces conformity—a scenario that parallels the existential concept of immanence discussed by Beauvoir. In Mailer’s language, man’s immanence is associated with totalitarian oppression, and the direction of man’s ultimate existential quest is toward a transcendent liberty that would allow him to move outside of this oppressive culture and define himself as an “outlaw.” The protagonists’ repeated references to an escape from this conformity also invoke the existential language of transcendence, as both the hypothetical “sexual outlaw” of “The White Negro” and the morally ambiguous Stephen Rojack of An American Dream work to fashion a more expansive definition of masculinity that defies convention.
Furthermore, much of Mailer’s conception of existential masculinity in “The White Negro” and An American Dream is based on a masculine protagonist’s anxiety over being defined by what he lacks, a theme augmented by Mailer’s fixation on an “other” as an integral factor in the construction of a liberated masculine identity. Echoing Beauvoir’s comparisons among blacks, Jews, and women in America, Mailer’s constructions of both the “white negro” persona and the character of Stephen Rojack are founded on a simultaneous tension and identification with a racial or female other. That is, each protagonist sees some of himself in these others, yet also fears that this other will somehow threaten his own masculine power or authority. Thus, the masculine identity of each character comes to rely on either an approximation of the other’s identity or a complete eradication of the other’s threat.
In some ways, however, Mailer’s existentialism is as interesting for its differences to Beauvoir and Sartre as it is for its similarities. For example, his own conception of existentialism is grounded more in mysticism and instinct than in explicit philosophical or ideological principles. It is also much more concerned with a Manichean vision of the world: Mailer reads existentialism as a battle not simply between immanence and transcendence, but between good and evil. He believes that to be a “real” existentialist, one must “be religious” and have a sense of purpose that is grounded in an awareness of heaven and hell (a “meaningful but mysterious end”), a point that (as he himself admits) runs contrary to Sartre’s own atheistic existentialism.[b] In sum, Mailer draws on many fundamentals of existential theory put forth by some of the principle existential theorists, but also makes clear where these theories diverge from his own. In an interview with The Paris Review, for example, Mailer states his suspicion that Sartre and Heidegger “are no closer to the buried continent of existentialism than were medieval cartographers near to a useful map of the world” for “the new continent which shows on our psychic maps as intimations of eternity is still to be discovered.” For Mailer, these “psychic maps” include a more embattled vision of existential philosophy that includes references to God and the devil, as well an investment in the possibility of magic and mysticism. As J. Michael Lennon has noted, Mailer believed that his unique brand of religious existentialism offered the possibility of “spiritual transcendence,” something that was lacking from traditional American and European existentialism.
Despite these variant interpretations, the foundational similarities between his own existential premises and those of the French existentialists from whose work he borrows become apparent in his discussion of existential violence. These parallels are particularly evident when one compares Mailer’s ideology to that of Sartre, as both perceive interpersonal and political violence to be imbued with positively charged revolutionary and liberatory qualities. In his famous preface to Franz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, for instance, Sartre argues that “at the individual level, violence is a cleansing force” that has the potential to raise people up from oppression and subordination. In Sartre’s estimation, then, violence contains within it a redeeming power. Similarly, Mailer views individual violence as a tool that can liberate men from the totalitarian oppression that threatens them, thus serving as a means to recuperate their compromised masculine identities. In a 1964 interview with W.J. Weatherby for Twentieth Century, for instance, Mailer argues that individual violence is an essential response to a possible “extinction of possibilities” presented to us by our environment. He further argues that those who lack an understanding of existential experience do not understand the complexities of violence, but for those who do harbor this understanding, violence can offer not only liberation, but revelation. “When violence is larger than one’s ability to dominate,” he notes, “it is existential and one is living in an instantaneous world of revelations.” Thus, Mailer presents a vision of a specifically existential violence that has the potential to govern the way one lives and understands the world. Moreover, for Mailer violence not only offers the possibility of cleansing or healing, but also serves as a badge of honor or courage—a longstanding foundational point of his own definition of masculinity.[c]
This assessment of interpersonal violence as ideologically liberating is not without its problems. Still, in works like An American Dream Mailer himself can be seen to struggle with the violent masculine ethic he has created. The complexity and occasional ambivalence embedded in Mailer’s representation of violence as a necessary marker of masculinity can, I believe, be illuminated by comparing his views to Hannah Arendt’s critique of violence as a mechanism for aggressively enforcing authority. On one hand, for example, Mailer and Arendt would likely agree that while at times violence is a necessary tool for justice, certain violences are more often employed as “successful techniques of social control” than social justice, and that in the political sphere, violence often becomes “nothing more than the most flagrant manifestation of power.” That is, Mailer clearly believes in the power of violence, yet like Arendt, his writings (both fictional and nonfictional) also suggest that he sees the damage that might be wielded by violence, especially when that violence is used by governments as a mechanism of totalitarian control. Indeed, though his violent masculinist ethic is controversial and problematic, this kind of critique—and the related ambivalences surrounding the relationship between violence and gender—often go unrecognized in Mailer’s fiction, and should be noted as part of Mailer’s own dedication to the dialectical nature of these issues.[d]
Of course, at times Mailer’s critical tone cannot erase the fact that he has created protagonists whose actions reify racist and misogynistic ideology. While Mailer does not endorse violence unquestioningly, he does embrace certain kinds of violence as the only way out of the totalitarian society he sees around him. In doing so, he threatens to perpetuate what Arendt refers to as the “instinct of domination” inevitably tied up in violence, re-enacting through his literature new cycles of oppression. In other words, Mailer constantly resists what Arendt later emphasizes: that violence, when viewed as not merely a means to a just end but as a way of life, results in “impotence.” Mailer often takes the opposite position, defining violence as an inherent part of masculine identity and as a vehicle for transcendence, not immanence (or, for that matter, impotence). The violent episodes in Mailer’s fiction demonstrate that while he attempts to construct an alternative manhood outside of the oppressive society he perceives, he largely continues to participate in the violence of that very society by essentially reenacting on an individual level the violence he condemns on the large scale.
Thus, the problem with Mailer’s goal of fashioning a masculine ethic defined by characteristics of an existential outlaw is that while the initial intention of his protagonists might be liberatory and equalizing, and while Mailer explores the consequences of violence perhaps more than he is given credit for, the violent means by which his protagonists achieve liberation serves instead to reestablish oppressive racial and gendered stereotypes, in effect re-submerging the “submerged classes” and individuals that Mailer seeks to liberate. Moreover, by way of his protagonists, Mailer emphasizes the power to be found in a violent performance of masculinity. Mailer does not assert this stance unquestioningly, nor does he fail to explore the nuances and consequences of various types of violence. Nevertheless, despite the existential tenets he borrows from Beauvoir, Mailer often seems to uphold some of the assumptions about gender that she herself tries to undo, as the language of liberation that he invokes ultimately liberates only his protagonists.
In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir argues that “it is not in giving life but in risking life that man is raised above the animal; that is why superiority has been accorded in humanity not to the sex that brings forth but that which kills.” In theorizing here about why social superiority is granted to man over woman, Beauvoir taps into a point that Mailer will fashion into a central tenet of his philosophy of masculinity: the importance of risk-taking and violence in the construction of a powerful, independent identity.[e] Mailer addresses the necessity of risk and embraces violence in a number of his novels, interviews, and essays; however, his thoughts on this subject are most extensively laid out in his 1957 essay “The White Negro,” the foundation for much of his later work on this topic. In fact, Philip Bufithis has argued that “each of Mailer’s subsequent protagonists in his novels is emotionally (though not factually) autobiographical and modeled on the hipster delineated in this essay.” As Mailer had explained earlier in a 1955 column for The Village Voice, the “hipster” is the American existentialist who lives in “the undercurrents and underworlds of American life” amongst “the defeated, the isolated, the violent, the tortured, and the warped,” one who rejects the totalitarian conformity of American society. He then clarifies two years later in “The White Negro,” that advocate of the “Hip” philosophy must also decide to “encourage the psychopath” in himself and “explore the domain of experience where security is boredom and therefore sickness.”
The idea of the “psychopathic” hipster is, for Mailer, also founded on the idea that violence is a necessary tool for liberation from a conformist society. To encourage one’s inner psychopath is to embrace that violence as an inherent part of one’s freedom. As Mailer writes,
Hip, which would return us to ourselves, at no matter what price in individual violence, is the affirmation of the barbarian, for it requires a primitive passion about human nature to believe that individual acts of violence are always to be preferred to the violence of the State; it takes literal faith in the creative possibilities of the human being to envisage acts of violence as the catharsis which prepares growth.
Through this depiction of the hipster, Mailer references the desire for liberty that is expressed by Beauvoir, and also invokes Sartre’s argument that violence can foster this liberty. Under circumstances in which civilization is built on “cultureless and alienated bottom of exploitable human material,” Mailer finds in violence creative potential and generative properties.[f] Violence, in fact, is not only presented as essential to liberation from conformity, but as a way to eradicate or at diminish violence. As Mailer writes, “the psychopath murders—if he has the courage—out of the necessity to purge his violence, for if he cannot empty his hatred then he cannot love, his being is frozen with implacable self-hatred for his cowardice.” In Mailer’s view, then, violence is used as a way to, in another seeming paradox, eliminate violence.
The violence in this context is decidedly “masculine,” as is the figure of the hipster itself. Both existential freedom and a theory of Hip are integral parts of Mailer’s philosophy of masculinity at this time, though they seem to be inclusive of men only—Mailer himself calls his work in Advertisements for Myself a “masculine argument,” one that should be differentiated from that of the “mystic,” which even Beauvoir notes is often associated with the feminine. In fact, to “goof,” as he says, or lose control of oneself on the journey to achieving existential freedom is to “reveal the buried weaker more feminine part of your nature.” As Mailer falls back on this simplified dichotomy of gender, we can observe a seed of the problems that will arise from the built-in exclusivity of a philosophy that initially intends to ground itself in a theory of liberation, as Mailer’s liberatory aims are refined to one gender.
Mailer’s theory of liberation is not only problematic because of its exclusivity to men but also because, at least in his early theorizing, it relies on the deployment of a violence that oppresses others, thus making any “liberation” possible only for the male aggressor. Though Mailer would later address the consequences of interpersonal violence more fully, his comments during this period of his career are much more extreme, so much so as to seem almost sensationalist.[g] In a 1955 Village Voice essay, for example, Mailer asserts that “to a Square, a rapist is a rapist…But a hipster knows that the act of rape is a part of life too, and that even in the most brutal and unforgivable rape, there is artistry or the lack of it…and so no two rapists nor no two rapes are ever the same.” This suggestion that there are acceptable or “artistic” kinds of rape threatens to do irreparable damage to Mailer’s theory by way of its moral relativism, as does its apparent embrace of sexual and often gender-based, misogynistic violence. Indeed, the Hip “morality,” which Mailer defines as “to do what one feels whenever and wherever it is possible sounds suspiciously like amorality. Further, the assertion that rape “is a part of life” points to an inherent problem with Mailer’s theory of violence that is later articulated by Hannah Arendt. In Arendt’s view, when one tries to find in violence a “method for living and acting,” it becomes “irrational,” yet for Mailer, the idea that violence not only is a method for living, but that it actually must be so is a foundational tenet of his notion of liberated masculine identity. Its irrationality, however, arises from the fact that Mailer equates an act that victimizes another with an act of growth and liberation, as he attempts to make violence an inherent part of freedom. While Mailer’s hipster might achieve a sense of freedom and catharsis from this act, it nevertheless comes at the expense of another whose freedom is suspended as a result.
Another central tenet of “The White Negro”—and a main reason for the essay’s controversy—lies in Mailer’s racialization of the hipster, which also contributes to the hypermasculinity of the “white negro” persona and later makes its way into Mailer’s philosophy of masculinity in An American Dream. In his vision of the liberated individual, Mailer imagines a hypothetical man of the future who would appropriate the position of the marginalized American black man. This element of Mailer’s theory is founded on his belief that the black man exists in a type of liminal space in America, as “he has been living on the margin between totalitarianism and democracy for two centuries.” Because Mailer sees the black man in America through the lens of the stereotype perpetuated at the time—a hyper-sexualized, violent, criminalized figure—he views this figure to be an ideal representative of the sexual and moral outlaw he envisions, a man “forced into the position of exploring all those moral wildernesses of civilized life which the Square automatically condemns as delinquent or evil or immature or morbid or self-destructive or corrupt.” According to Mailer, this hyper-sexualized hipster is searching for an “apocalyptic orgasm” which will free him from social constriction and allow him to be the signifier of a new era in which rebellion will replace the conformity that Mailer sees as more destructive even than violence.
The racialization of the hipster also creates a set of problems that anticipate similar issues in An American Dream. The most obvious of these is that by imagining an ideal masculine figure who lives by what he calls a “black man’s code,” Mailer risks upholding racist stereotypes of the heightened sexuality and criminality often attributed to blackness. James Baldwin also responded to this problem in his 1961 Esquire article, “The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy.” There, Baldwin acknowledges that “to be an American Negro male is also be to be a kind of walking phallic symbol, which means that one pays, in one’s own personality, for the sexual insecurity of others. The relationship, therefore, of a black boy to a white boy is a very complex thing.” It is this complexity to which Baldwin feels Mailer does not quite do justice, carrying the stereotype of the sexualized black man so far that “the mystique could only be extended into violence.” In other words, Baldwin accuses Mailer of perpetuating the myths that govern social assumptions about black masculinity, thus creating the “mystique” around the figure of the black man that further contributes to his otherness.[h] In this way, Mailer perpetuates the kind of oppressive othering that Beauvoir criticizes; he becomes the one who “limits and denies” as he mythicizes the black man into a category outside of society, and in doing so, removes some of this man’s agency.
At the same time, I believe it is important to remember that these are actually the very kinds of assumptions and stereotypes that Mailer himself was initially trying to eradicate via his essay. As he stated forthrightly in The Village Voice, “My passion… is to destroy stereotypes, categories, and labels.” Moreover, as he explained in Dissent in 1958, the “real desire” of the masculine figure he introduces in “The White Negro” is to “make a better world, one in which individual violence would “still spare us the collective violence of rational totalitarian liquidations” and “open the possibility of working with that human creativity which is violence’s opposite.” The final vision Mailer holds is in fact one of “love” and “justice,” in which all men are freed from their respective oppressions by the violence of the individual.[i] Indeed, as J. Michael Lennon has pointed out in his biography of Mailer, despite the “vigorous rejoinders” inspired by the controversial passages in the essay, the work was also “celebrated for its orphic verve,” and many readers recognized the essay for the “call to radical self-assertion” that it was intended to be, praising the work for its defiant and ultimately hopeful tone. Thus, the figure of the “white negro” hipster, though modeled on Mailer’s misguided perceptions of blackness, is meant to represent the man of the future: Mailer foresees not only the ability for the black man to “win his equality” but also envisions that “he will possess a potential superiority” that will change the face of psychology, politics, and culture at large. The problem, however, is the underlying contradiction in Mailer’s hypothesis that “a time of violence, new hysteria, confusion and rebellion will then be likely to replace the time of conformity.” This celebration of violence and its rationale brings with it all of the aforementioned problems that make its justification so difficult.
This problematic interpretation of violence as a marker of both masculine power and individual freedom remains central to much of Mailer’s writing during the 1960s, and during that time Mailer continued to revise and reshape his evolving views on the role of this phenomenon. For example, in an “Impolite Interview” with Mailer for The Realist in 1962, Paul Krassner notes that in The Naked and the Dead, Mailer’s first novel, there exists “a theme about the futility of violence on a grand scale,” while in “The White Negro,” there is instead “almost a justification of violence, at least on a personal level.” When asked to account for this inconsistency, Mailer replies:
The ideas I had about violence changed 180 degrees over those years. Beneath the ideology in The Naked and the Dead was an obsession with violence. The characters for whom I had the most secret admiration, like Croft, were violent people. Ideologically, intellectually, I did disapprove of violence, though I didn’t at the time of “The White Negro.” But what I still disapprove of is inhuman violence—violence which is on a large scale and abstract. I disapprove of bombing a city. I disapprove of the kind of man who will derive aesthetic satisfaction from the fact that an Ethiopian village looks like a red rose at the moment the bombs are exploding.
In other words, while Mailer admits that his views on violence have changed, he also notes that even in his earlier novel, there existed a latent admiration for violence. That is, the most significant difference between his views of individual violence in The Naked and the Dead and “The White Negro” seems to be that in the latter essay, his admiration is no longer a secret. Still, what his above remarks also suggest is that individual violence has almost always been a characteristic that he has admired and even advocated, believing that it allows one to move outside of the totalitarian structure of society.
Even more important to consider is Mailer’s distinction here between a human and inhuman violence, or between large-scale violence that is either purely “aesthetic” (as in, a mere show of authority or mass power) and an individual violence that is necessary or justified by its revolutionary, liberatory, and creative potential. These differentiations are integral to an understanding of the deployment of violence in An American Dream, a novel that certainly still exhibits the “obsession with violence” Mailer himself mentions, as in that novel Mailer traces the development of his protagonist’s masculinity through a series of violent episodes, often condoning and justifying individual violence while rejecting a larger “abstract” violence of society. Stephen Rojack of An American Dream exhibits many of the same controversial attributes of the existential “hipster” hero Mailer fashions in “The White Negro,” rendering this novel similarly problematic in its evocation of a masculinist ethic that, in theory, runs counter to the type of freedom characteristic of the “better world” Mailer originally envisions. Yet because Mailer shows much of Rojack’s project of violence to be a failure, he leaves the reader with a series of contradictions that raise important questions about the consequences of an individual violence that manifests as both liberating and oppressive.
An American Dream Expanded.
- While Mailer did not hesitate to call himself an existential author, and repeatedly referred to a wide range of existential themes in his own work, Mary Dearborn points out in her biography of Mailer that his knowledge of existential philosophy came mostly from reading William Barrett’s What Is Existentialism? However, Mailer was certainly aware of the philosophies of Sartre and de Beauvoir from the company he kept as a member of the Partisan Review circle, and by 1966 when he was interviewed for The Paris Review’s “Art of Fiction” series, he admitted to having studied more of both Sartre and Heidegger.
- In The Presidential Papers (1964), Mailer writes: “If God is not all powerful but existential, discovering the possibilities and limitations of his creative powers in the form of the history which is made by His creatures, then one must postulate an existential equal to God, an antagonist, the Devil, a principle of Evil whose signature was the concentration camps, whose joy is to waste substance, whose intent is to prevent God’s conception of being from reaching its mysterious goal.” By contrast, in Existentialism is a Humanism (1946), Sartre writes: “Atheistic existentialism, which I represent, is more consistent. It states that if God does not exist, there is at least one being in whom existence precedes essence — a being whose existence comes before its essence, a being who exists before he can be defined by any concept of it. That being is man, or as Heidegger puts it, the human reality.”
- As early as age 20, Mailer was already commenting on the necessity of violence to the construction of an honorable manhood. In “A Calculus to Heaven,” a story he wrote as a senior at Harvard which was republished in Advertisements for Myself, one of Mailer’s military heroes muses: “It might be necessary for him to die to find that dignity. Certainly, he thought, life and death and violent action were fundamentals, and he would find no lie there.”
- Two recent exceptions to this include Joseph Wenke’s Mailer’s America and Warren Rosenberg’s Legacy of Rage. Rosenberg discusses Mailer’s ambivalence about violence within a broader discussion of Jewish identity in Mailer’s work, and Wenke provides an insightful analysis of violence in a number of Mailer’s works, discussing violence as an “aesthetic problem” that exists within the dramatic situations presented in the texts themselves.
- In The Presidential Papers, Mailer indicated his belief that courage and risk form the foundation of an existential masculine leadership, and that this “manly” existential leader would “create a new reality which would displace the old psychological reality.” He urges America to encourage “complexities” in their leaders, for it is only by doing so that the country will find the courageous and masculine leader they purportedly need. As he writes, to create complexities “is a manly activity. It offers more hope for saving the world than a gaggle of pacifists and vegetarians. The ‘Ban the bomb’ program is not manly. It is militant but it is not manly.” This idea of complexity and risk-taking, as well as the necessity of replacing an old and decaying “psychological reality” with one that welcomes the possibility of violence, will form the basis for Stephen Rojack’s perceptions of desirable masculinity in An American Dream.
- The creative potential of violence was something Mailer believed in for most of his life. “If you cut all the violence out of society,” Mailer told Lawrence Grobel in 2001, “you also cut out all the creativity.”
- In On God: An Uncommon Conversation, he explains to J. Michael Lennon: “I work on the notion that there’s godliness within us and diabolism as well. So to bring forth what is within you, it is necessary, very often, to send out the worst elements of yourself. Because if they stay within, they can poison you. That is much more complex than saying, “Get it out! Act it out. Be free, man! Liberate yourself.’ Because very often what comes out is so bad that it injures others, sometimes dreadfully…To the degree that certain ugly emotions are acted out, others are injured terribly by your freedom to do so.”
- W. J. Weatherby traces this fraught relationship between Baldwin and Mailer in his 1977 book Squaring Off. There, he notes that Baldwin said that Mailer “maligned the people he was writing about in The White Negro,” but also admitted that “whites like Norman have a great role if they will only accept that it’s secondary. They can’t be the stars, they can’t lead us, for God’s sake, but we need them if the racial nightmare is to end and we are all to wake up in time…Norman and I have a duty to come together, to understand each other, to try to overcome the competitive sense this society creates to keep us apart.”
- In certain ways, such an idea anticipates Girard’s discussion of the scapegoat in Violence and the Sacred. There, Girard argues that the sacrifice of a surrogate victim is a means “to keep violence outside the community.” As he goes on to explain, “A trace of real violence persists in the rite, and there is no doubt that the rite succeeds at least partially because of its grim associations, its lingering fascination; but its essential orientation is peaceful. Even the most violent rites are specifically designed to abolish violence. To see these rites as expressions of man’s pathological morbidity is to miss the point.” Mailer’s theory suggests similar purgative effects.
- Mailer 1959, p. 20.
- Mailer 1959, p. 341.
- Mailer 1964, p. 193.
- Sartre 2007, p. 22.
- Mailer 1966, p. 252.
- Lennon 2013, p. 203.
- Fanon 2004, p. 51.
- Mailer 1982, p. 28.
- Mailer 1982, p. 30.
- Mailer 1959, p. 51.
- Arendt 1970, pp. 19; 35.
- Arendt 1970, p. 36.
- Arendt 1970, p. 54.
- Mailer 1964, p. 146.
- Beauvoir 1989, p. 68.
- Mailer 1982, p. 26.
- Mailer 1982, p. 128.
- Bufithis 1978, p. 59.
- Mailer 1959, p. 314.
- Mailer 1959, p. 339.
- Mailer 1959, p. 355.
- Grobel 2008, p. 439.
- Mailer 1959, p. 347.
- Mailer 1959, p. 351.
- Mailer & Lennon 2007, pp. 67–68.
- Mailer 1959, p. 354.
- Arendt 1970, p. 66.
- Mailer 1959, p. 340.
- Mailer 1959, p. 348.
- Baldwin 1998, p. 270.
- Baldwin 1998, p. 277.
- Weatherby 1977, p. 32.
- Weatherby 1977, p. 64.
- Beauvoir 1989, p. 147.
- Mailer 1959, p. 310.
- Mailer 1959, p. 363.
- Girard 2005, p. 98.
- Girard 2005, p. 108.
- Lennon 2013, pp. 220–221.
- Mailer 1959, p. 356.
- Mailer 1964, p. 136.
- Arendt, Hannah (1970). On Violence. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World.
- Baldwin, James (1998) . "The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy". In Morrison, Toni. James Baldwin: Collected Essays. New York: Library of America. pp. 2267–285.
- Beauvoir, Simone de (1989) . The Second Sex. Translated by Parshley, H. M. New York: Random House.
- Bufithis, Philip H. (1978). Norman Mailer. New York: Frederick Unger Publishing Company.
- Dearborn, Mary (1999). Norman Mailer: A Biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- Fanon, Franz (2004) . The Wretched of the Earth. Translated by Philcox, Richard. New York: Grove Press.
- Girard, Rene (2005) . Violence and the Sacred. Translated by Gregory, Patrick. New York: Continuum.
- Grobel, Lawrence (2008). "Norman Mailer: Stupidity Brings Out Violence in Me". The Mailer Review. 2: 426–451. (Reprint from Endangered Species: Writers Talk About Their Craft, Their Visions, Their Lives. Cambridge: De Capo Press. 2001.)
- Krassner, Paul (December 1962). "An Impolite Interview with Norman Mailer". The Realist. 40: 1, 13–16, 18–23, 10. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
- Lennon, J. Michael (2013). Norman Mailer: A Double Life. New York: Simon & Schuster.
- Mailer, Norman (1959). Advertisements for Myself. Cambridge: Harvard UP.
- — (1966). Cannibals and Christians. New York: Pinnacle.
- —; Lennon, J. Michael (2007). On God: An Uncommon Conversation. New York: Random House.
- — (1982). Pieces and Pontifications. Boston: Little, Brown.
- — (1964). The Presidential Papers. New York: Bantam Books.
- Rosenberg, Warren (2001). Legacy of Rage: Jewish Masculinity, Violence, and Culture. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.
- Sartre, Jean Paul (2007) . Existentialism Is a Humanism. Translated by Barnes, Hazel E. New York: The Philosophical Library.
- Weatherby, William J. (1977). Squaring Off: Mailer vs. Baldwin. New York: Mason/Charter.
- Wenke, Joseph (1987). Mailer’s America. Hanover: UP of New England.