RARA-AVIS: "getting royally screwed"?

From: Chris Schneider ( chrisaschneider@earthlink.net)
Date: 31 Jul 2003

> on 7/9/03 7:52 AM, Bill Bowers at BBowers@one.net wrote:
> But my personal favorite Willeford novel is "Cockfighter".
> It is not, particularly, a mystery. But if your definition of "noir"
> hinges on the protagonist getting royally screwed in the end ... I can
> think of no better example that I've ever read.

      I just finished reading "Cockfighter," which I liked, and pardon me for acting dumb, but ... in what way has Willeford written a "noir" ending or has he shown his protagonist to have been "royally screwed"?


      Frank Mansfield has taken an oath that he won't use his voice again until he wins the Cockfighter of the Year Award. He refrains from speaking, and he wins the award.

      He does lose Dody, the teenage concubine, and Mary Elizabeth, the all-too-patient fiancee who has been waiting for Frank all these years. But is either one very much of a loss? Dody is shown to be a termagant, one for ehom Frank has nothing but contempt, and Mary Elizabeth -- when she finally shows up at the big tournament -- demonstrates that she has absolutely no understanding of or taste for the sport. She proves to be an archetypal Woman Who Doesn't 'Get It.' (Parallel cinematic example: Rita Hayworth in
"...Only Angels Have Wings.")

     One could say that Frank's relationship with Omar, the former ad-man with the magnificent beard with whom he sets up a partnership and with whom Frank begins to accumulate lots of money, is a more rewarding relationship than the ones with either Dody or Mary Elizabeth. Or, at least, *I'd* say it -- but what do I know? I'm an avowed-and-practicing "Henry James"-lover and would rather read Proust than Faulkner any day.

      Icky, the prize bird, does die at the end of "Cockfighter" ... but Willeford shows that this is the sort of thing that happens in the sport. Birds are injured or they die. Mansfield, the man who's willing to set a fighting bird on fire, would be the last person to deny that.

      Icky does die, but he's judged the winner (by mutual attrition) and Frank-plus-Omar get a cerificate as well as a pot o' money.

      On top of that, Frank seems most likely to spend spend a lush vacation in Puerto Rico with a wealthy and physically-ample widow.

      Where exacly is the "royally screwed" in all of that? Please explain.


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