An American political journalist, author and professor, Norman Cousins in his essay Who killed Benny Paret expresses his point of view as to the death of a prize-fighter on the ring and the society’s complicity with this death, caused by the unjustified popularity of boxing.
In the beginning of his essay Cousins introduces a prizefighter promoter, who is considered to be the most powerful figure in the world of boxing. Describing this person, he uses ironical expressions such as “a colossus who sounded the way Napoleon must have sounded when he reviewed a battle” and “Number One”. These very words depict the author’s personal attitude to the situation and to the words which this promoter says later on.
Mr. Jacobson claims that the main principle in prize-fight promoting is how to please the audience and that people come out to see not boxing artists but the people who are eager to kill each other. In order to intensify the idea of promoter’s words, the interviewer asks him to explain his thought one more time, so that people who read the extract from the discussion think about it again.
Further on, Norman Cousins acquaints the readers with the personality of Benny Paret. He was killed on the ring and it was shown on television to millions of people. The words “millions” and “television” have hyperbolic meanings and intensify the scale of the incident.
After the death of Paret, the boxing authorities and the government launched an investigation in order to determine the responsibility for it. The main objective of the authorities as well as of the author is to answer a question: “Who is to blame for his death?”
Developing the idea, Norman Cousins helps the reader to put several rhetorical questions and then answers them himself. Was it referee, who failed to stop the fight earlier? Or was it the doctor that certified the boxer’s fitness to fight? Or was it the manager that did not allow enough time for Paret to recuperate from the previous fight? These questions lead the reader to the climatic point of the essay, which is the answer. In fact, no one of the people listed bellow is guilty.
Norman Cousins pays reader’s attention to the fact that the blame should be put on the audience who comes to entertain. The crowd pays to see the moment, when a man hit and wounded gets further beating. The author emphasizes that it is the prevailing mores, considering prize-fighting as proper enterprise and entertainment that caused Benny Paret’s death. So, he is killed by people who pay for the show.
The last paragraph, which is the denouement of the story appeals not to blame the referee or fight managers or someone else. The intentional usage of great number of repetitions in the end of the essay and throughout it in general persuades the reader that one should put the blame on the audience which enjoys prizefighting and will miss it if it is banned.
Using strong verbs and vivid stylistic devices, Cousins tells the story of a man who had been hit hard in the head several times and died because of a serious brain damage. The author tries to convince the reader through the general intonation of the story and the implied atmosphere.
The message is that nowadays violence has become an integral part of out life. It is everywhere and people instead of reducing it, pay money for it and entertain themselves with its help. The tragic incident with Benny Paret is just one more proof of the culture of violence that pervades our world.
Norman Cousins made the eyes of many people open. The brutality of the prizefighting does not encourage human existence, and people should fight against their own blood thirst and foolishness. And that is precisely the point.