T. Coraghessan Boyle is a unique modern author whose work is a mixture of humor and social exploration. Boyle seems to have a very morbid sense of humor; most of what he writes pushes the envelope and challenges the meaning of what humor is. T. C. Boyle was born on December 2, 1948. He grew up in a small town in Iowa and first had dreams of being a musician. To this day Boyle still performs in a garage band and is very passionate about music. Boyle quickly realized in college that he could not make a living from music and drifted through classes until liberal arts became his passion.
Boyle was successful in schooling from that point on, “He received a Ph. D. degree in Nineteenth Century British Literature from the University of Iowa in 1977, his M. F. A. from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1974, and his B. A. in English and History from SUNY Potsdam in 1968. ” Boyle then moved on to become a member of the English Department at the University of Southern California and has raised his family of a wife and three kids in the busy life of California.
Boyle’s morbid sense of humor combined with his outlook on social exploration is what makes him such a unique author and his stories compelling to read, “The Hit Man”, a short story in the book, T. C. Boyle Stories, is no exception. “The Hit Man” challenges the social norms of the 1980’s and even Boyle’s own personal history to create the story’s morbid sense of humor. “The Hit Man” is a very unique story in the way it is styled, the story is split into sections of important parts of the Hit Man’s life; such as early years, first date, marriage and death just to name a few.
The story of the Hit Man is disturbing from the beginning, in the first three lines of the section called “early years” the narrator talks about how “the principal dresses him[the Hit Man] down for branding preschoolers with a lit cigarette,” while this image that Boyle created is not a pleasant one, as you read you can’t help but continue. Boyle catches his reader hook line and sinker by challenging what is the social norm of the time was. In the 1980’s when this story was written scientific research was being released to the public that said smoking was harmful to your health.
For the first time in the history the majority of the people finally believed that smoking is an unhealthy habit, especially for preschoolers. Boyle used these ideas when he created the character Hit Man, creating a contradiction between a normal good preschooler and the child the Hit Man is. No normal preschool child would know what a cigarette is let alone use it at a device to “brand” another human. The second thing the Hit Man does in his early years that catches the reader off guard is when the captain of the football team tries to remove the Hit Man’s hood, “The Hit Man wastes him. The Hit Man who is only thirteen at this point of the story killed his first person at such a young age. While I do not feel that T. C. Boyle wasted anyone when he was thirteen, I do believe that Boyle was trying to show the reader what normal human impulses are when they are faced with being bullied. I do not think Boyle would ever endorse behavior like this, but what it does for the Hit Man is creates an image of a wild animal that is inside all of human when they are face with physical situations.
The next thing that Boyle does in his story is talk about the Hit Man’s first date where he takes out a girl named Cynthia. I find this as humanizing for the image of the Hit Man and the fact that Boyle tries to humanize the Hit Man shows that he wants his readers to connect with the character. The unique thing that Boyle did in this section though, is the use of parenthetical information. The Hit Man borrowed his dad’s car but when Boyle mentions that it is his dad’s car he goes off on a tangent about how the Hit Man threatened to kill his father for the way he was mistreating him.
After this tangent Boyle refocuses back on to the date and the way the Hit Man picked up Cynthia. “He responds to the Hit Man’s knock, expresses surprise at the Hit Man’s appearance. The Hit Man takes Cynthia by the elbow, presses a twenty into her father’s palm, and disappears into the night. ” This is a very unique first date story even for the culture of the 80’s which seemed to be more sexually open than ever before. On an average first date the male usually tries to impress the father and gets a lecture about what time he should safely bring the daughter home.
But the Hit Man is different and Boyle creates these differences by contrasting the Hit Man to the social norms of the eighties. The next major event of the story I find conflicting with the history of T. C. Boyle is when the narrator skims over the death of the Hit Man’s parents. The narrator only gives this event in the Hit Man’s life five lines of the story. When the Hit Man’s mother is in the, “Hospital dying of cancer or heart disease,” or something the Hit Man doesn’t even care; he is out “shooting pool, lifting weights and drinking milk from the carton. Briefly skimming over these events makes you believe that Boyle didn’t have a good relationship with his parents. When in fact that’s quite the opposite, Boyle has always been a family man and at one point of his life he was even employed at the same school where his mom was a secretary and his father was a janitor. (Cite this information) This is further proof that Boyle uses contradictions to the normality of his life to create a dark morbid character for the readers.
Another example of where Boyle reverses the social norms to create the fascinating character that the Hit Man is by having the Hit Man on a nationally televised Talk Show. The Hit man is the second guest of this show and comes on immediately after a pediatrician who talks about issues in toddlers. The first question the Hit Man is asked by the talk show host is, “I’ve always wanted to know- what does it feel like to hit someone. ” This quote shows the way Boyle has altered realty so that his character the Hit Man is accepted amongst the society.
This acceptance is what allows Boyle to push the envelope and create the unique style of the story. The Last example of T. C. Boyle’s unique style is when he describes the birth of the Hit Man’s first Child. “A Boy. The Hit Man is Delighted. ” The Narrator then describes how the Hit man begins to train his son in the art of killing. “By the time he was four the boy has mastered the rudiments of Tae Kwon Do. ” Boyle even stretches his character to the point of having the, “Hit Man rest his broad palm on the boy’s head. You’re going to make the Big Leagues, Tiger, he says. This is all example of Boyle contradicting the parenting norms of the 1980’s. While all parents desire their children to take after them, Boyle took it to an extreme for the use of his character. No father should train their kid to be a killer, but the fact that the Hit Man is doing so is humorous because of the way it challenges the accepted way of child raising. T. Coraghessan Boyle has created a one of a kind story when he wrote “The Hit Man. ” Throughout the story Boyle reverses many aspect of the Hit Man’s life against what was considered to be normal in 1980.
I do believe that Boyle did stretch his character to attract readers and challenge the way they think about what they read. This was a very useful writing tool for Boyle and is the way he created a morbid humor out of a character like the Hit Man. The way the Hit Man contradicts the norm of not only Boyle’s life but the social acceptable norm of the 1980’s, proves that “The Hit Man,” is a story written only for entertainment of the readers who are willing to take the stretch to understand a Hit Man.