30+ quotes from The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

Quotes from The Naked and the Dead

Norman Mailer ·  721 pages

Rating: (20.8K votes)


“The natural role of the twentieth-century man is anxiety.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“You can indulge your righteous rage but the things it comes out of are pretty cheap. The trick is to make yourself an instrument of your own policy. Whether you like it or not, that's the highest effectiveness man has achieved.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“The more things you own, the more things you need to keep you comfortable.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“Yeah, fighting a war to fix something works about as good as going to a whorehouse to get rid of a clap.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“Tolstoy teaches us that compassion is of value and enriches our life only when compassion is severe, which is to say when we can perceive everything that is good and bad about a character but are still able to feel that the sum of us as human beings is probably a little more good than awful. In any case, good or bad, it reminds us that life is like a gladiators’ arena for the soul and so we can feel strengthened by those who endure, and feel awe and pity for those who do not.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“The jeep would round the bend, be hit by a dozen bullets at once, and that would be the end of his petty history of unfocused groping and unimportant dissatisfactions.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“Roth was feeling a gentle warmth as he thought of his son. He was remembering the way his son used to awaken him on Sunday mornings. His wife would put the baby in bed with him, and the child would straddle his stomach and pull feebly at the hairs on Roth’s chest, cooing with delight. It gave him a pang of joy to think of it, and then, back of it, a realization that he had never enjoyed his child as much when he had lived with him. He had been annoyed and irritable at having his sleep disturbed, and it filled him with wonder that he could have missed so much happiness when he had been so close to it. It seemed to him now that he was very near a fundamental understanding of himself, and he felt a sense of mystery and discovery as if he had found unseen gulfs and bridges in all the familiar drab terrain of his life. “You know,” he said, “life is funny.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“You’ve seen too many movies. If you’re holding a gun and you shoot a defenseless man, then you’re a poor creature, a dastardly person. That’s a perfectly ridiculous idea, you realize. The fact that you’re holding the gun and the other man is not is no accident. It’s a product of everything you’ve achieved, it assumes that if you’re . . . you’re aware enough, you have the gun when you need it.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“Red had a deep loathing of the night before them. He had been through so much combat, had felt so many kinds of terror, and had seen so many men killed that he no longer had any illusions about the inviolability of his own flesh. He knew he could be killed; it was something he had accepted long ago, and he had grown a shell about that knowledge so that he rarely thought of anything further ahead than the next few minutes…”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“No, but why is Croft that way?
Oh there are The Answers. He is that way because of the-corruption-of-the-society. He is that way because he is having problems of adjustment. It is because he is a Texan. It is because he has renounced God. He is that way because he was born that way, or because the Devil has claimed him for one of his own, or because the only woman he ever loved was untrue to him.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“The book was sloppily written in many parts (the words came too quickly and too easily) and there was hardly a noun in any sentence that was not holding hands with the nearest and most commonly available adjective — scalding coffee and tremulous fear are the sorts of thing you will find throughout. Over-certified adjectives are the mark of most best-seller writing.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“Everything was damp and rife and hot as though the jungle were an immense collection of oily rags growing hotter and hotter under the dark stifling vaults of a huge warehouse. Heat licked at everything, and the foliage, responding, grew to prodigious sizes. In the depths, in the heat and the moisture, it was never silent. The birds cawed, the small animals and occasional snakes rustled and squealed, and beneath it all was a hush, almost palpable, in which could be heard the rapt absorbed sounds of vegetation growing.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“The best they could? I don’t think so.” He paused as if to edit his woes and select the most telling ones. “Did you notice how they treated the officers? They slept in staterooms when we were jammed in the hold like pigs. It’s to make them feel superior, a chosen group. That’s the same device Hitler uses when he makes the Germans think they’re superior.” Roth felt as if he were on the edge of something profound.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“I HATE EVERYTHING WHICH IS NOT IN MYSELF”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“And they were always young, Air Corps pilots and ensigns, and good-looking girls in fur coats, and always the government secretary or two, the working girl as a carry-over from the fraternity parties when she was always the girl who could be made because in some mysterious way the women of the lower classes could be depended upon to copulate like jack rabbits. And they all knew they were going to die soon with a sentimental and unstated English attitude which was completely phony. It came from books they had never read, and movies they shouldn’t have seen; it was fed by the tears of their mothers, and the knowledge quite shocking, quite unbelievable, that a lot of them did die when they went overseas. Its origins were spurious; they never could connect really the romance of their impending deaths with the banal mechanical process of flying an airplane and landing and living in the barren eventless Army camps that surrounded their airfields. But nevertheless they had discovered it was a talisman, they were going to die soon, and they wore it magically until you believed in it when you were with them. And they did magical things like pouring whisky on each other’s hair, or setting mattresses afire, or grabbing hats on the fly from the heads of established businessmen. Of all the parties those were perhaps the best, but he had come to them too old.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“City Point is so beautiful, she says. In the night they cannot see the garbage that litters the beach, the seaweed and driftwood, the condoms that wallow sluggishly on the foam’s edge, discarded on the shore like the minuscule loathsome animals of the sea. Yeah, it’s something, he says slowly.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“And in the complicated, relished, introspective web of young lovers, or more exactly, young petters, they progress along the oldest channel in the world and the most deceptive, for they are certain it is unique to them. Even as they are calling themselves engaged, they are losing the details of their subtle involved pledging of a troth. They are moved and warmed by intimacies between them, by long husky conversations in the parlor, in inexpensive restaurants, by the murmurs, the holding of hands in the dark velvet caverns of movie houses. They forget most of the things that have advanced them into love, feel now only the effect of them. And of course their conversation alters, new themes are bruited. Shy sensitive girls may end up as poetesses or they may turn bitter and drink alone in bars, but nice shy sensitive Jewish girls usually marry and have children, gain two pounds a year, and worry more about refurbishing hats and trying a new casserole than about the meaning of life. After their engagement, Natalie talks over their prospects.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“It takes all kinds to make a world.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“The moments like these, the passing doubts, were the temptations that caught you if you were not careful.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“His decision had been made in the valley, and it lay as an iron warp in his mind. He could have turned back no more easily than he could have killed himself.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“Yank! Yank! We you come to get Yank. We you come to get.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“There was the old myth of divine intervention. You blasphemed, and a lightning bolt struck you. That was a little steep too. If punishment is at all proportionate to the offense, then power becomes watered. The only way you generate the proper attitude of awe and obedience is through immense and disproportionate power.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“Israel is the heart of all nations.” It was the conscience and the raw exposed nerve; all emotion passed through it. But it was more than that; it was the heart that suffered whenever any part of the body was ill.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“You know,” he laughed easily, “with all the goddam drinkin’ Ah’ve done, Ah still can’t remember the taste of it unless Ah got the bottle right with me.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“He knew that again now. Hennessey’s death had opened to Croft vistas of such omnipotence that he was afraid to consider it directly. All day the fact hovered about his head, tantalizing him with odd dreams and portents of power.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“Roth was irritated. Just because he was a Jew too, they always assumed he felt the same way about things. It made him feel a little frustrated. No doubt some of his bad luck had come because he was one, but that was unfair; it wasn’t as if he took an interest, it was just an accident of birth.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“American’s capacity for real estate improvement; build yourself a house, grow fat in it, and die.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“Hearn’s death was happily smudged, or at least on the surface, but ever since the second ambush he had been feeling the apprehension of a man in a dream who knows he is guilty, is waiting for his punishment, and cannot remember his crime.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“Goldstein, you'd be a pretty good boy if you wasn't so chicken.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


“It was probably a damn sight easier than getting rid of a woman who had found something in him that he didn't have or he didn't care to give.”
― Norman Mailer, quote from The Naked and the Dead


About the author

Norman Mailer
Born place: in Long Branch, New Jersey, The United States
Born date January 31, 1923
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