the roots of english hoplophobia

Carrying a revolver is a fad, just a fad or a fashion; but the revolvers are mighty harmless. Of course there are desperadoes on the frontier, but that is the only part of the world they live in. Their deeds give a false character to their district. I have carried a revolver; lots of us do, but they are the most innocent things in the world.
MARK TWAIN PUT TO THE QUESTION, ADELAIDE South Australian Register, OCTOBER 14, 1895, in Mark Twain Speaks for Himself, edited by Paul Fatout, Purdue University Press, 1997, p. 152

‘I am interested in this man,’ wrote C.C., ‘and I have caused inquiries to be made on a somewhat wider front than usual, since it is not common to be confronted with a secret agent who is at once so much of a public figure and yet appears to be infinitely successful in the difficult and dangerous field of his choice—that of being, in common parlance, “a gun for hire”. I think I may have found the origin of this partiality for killing his fellow men in cold blood, men against whom he has no personal animosity but merely the reflected animosity of his employers, in the following bizarre anecdote from his youth. In the travelling circus of his father, Enrico Scaramanga, the boy had several roles. He was a most spectacular trick shot, he was a stand-in strong man in the acrobatic troupe often taking the place of the usual artiste as bottom man in the “human pyramid” act, and he was the mahout, in gorgeous turban, Indian robes, etc., who rode the leading elephant in a troupe of three. This elephant , by the name of Max, was a male and it is a peculiarity of the male elephant, which I have learned with much interest and verified with eminent zoologists, that, at intervals during the year, they go “on heat” sexually. During these periods, a mucous deposit forms behind the animals’ ears and this needs to be scraped off since otherwise it causes the elephant intense irritation. Max developed this symptom during a visit of the circus to Trieste, but, through an oversight , the condition was not noticed and given the necessary treatment. The “Big Top” of the circus had been erected on the outskirts of the town adjacent to the coastal railway line and, on the night which was, in my opinion to determine the future way of life of the young Scaramanga, Max went berserk, threw the youth and, screaming horrifically, trampled his way through the auditorium, causing many casualties, and charged off across the fairground and on to the railway line down which (a frightening spectacle under the full moon which, as newspaper cuttings record, was shining on that night) he galloped at full speed. The local carabiniere were alerted and set off in pursuit by car along the main road that flanks the railway line. In due course they caught up with the unfortunate monster, which, its frenzy expired, stood peacefully facing back the way it had come. Not realizing that the elephant, if approached by its handler, could now be led peacefully back to its stall, the police opened rapid fire and bullets from their carbines and revolvers wounded the animal superficially in many places. Infuriated afresh, the miserable beast, now pursued by the police car from which the hail of fire continued, charged off again along the railway line. On arrival at the fairground, the elephant seemed to recognize its “home”, the “Big Top”, and, turning off the railway line, lumbered back through the fleeing spectators to the centre of the deserted arena and there, weakened by loss of blood, pathetically continued with its interrupted act. Trumpeting dreadfully in its agony, the mortally wounded Max endeavoured again and again to raise itself and stand upon one leg. Meanwhile the young Scaramanga, now armed with his pistols, Trumpeting dreadfully in its agony, the mortally wounded Max endeavoured again and again to raise itself and stand upon one leg. Meanwhile the young Scaramanga, now armed with his pistols, animal’s head while calling out the “elephant talk” with which he usually controlled him. Max seems to have recognized the youth and—it must have been a truly pitiful sight—lowered its trunk to allow the youth to be hoisted to his usual seat behind the elephant’s head. But at this moment the police burst into the sawdust ring and their captain, approaching very close, emptied his revolver into the elephant’s right eye at a range of a few feet, upon which Max fell dying to the ground. Upon this, the young Scaramanga who, according to the Press, had a deep devotion for his charger, drew one of his pistols and shot the policeman through the heart and fled off into the crowd of bystanders pursued by the other policemen who could not fire because of the throng of people. He made good his escape, found his way south to Naples and thence, as noted above, stowed away to America.
    Now, I see in this dreadful experience a possible reason for the transformation of Scaramanga into the most vicious gunman of recent years. In him was, I believe, born on that day a cold-blooded desire to avenge himself on all humanity. That the elephant had run amok and trampled many innocent people, that the man truly responsible was his handler and that the police were only doing their duty, would be, psychopathologically, either forgotten or deliberately suppressed by a youth of hot-blooded stock whose subconscious had been so deeply lacerated. At all events, Scaramanga’s subsequent career requires some explanation, and I trust I am not being fanciful in putting forward my own prognosis from the known facts.
    M rubbed the bowl of his pipe thoughtfully down the side of his nose. Well, fair enough! He turned back to the file.
    ‘I have comment,’ wrote C.C., ‘to make on this man’s alleged sexual potency when seen in relation to his profession. It is a Freudian thesis, with which I am inclined to agree, that the pistol, whether in the hands of an amateur or of a professional gunman, has significance for the owner as a symbol of virility—an extension of the male organ—and that excessive interests in guns (e.g. gun collections and gun clubs) is a form of fetishism. The partiality of Scaramanga for a particularly showy variation of weapon, and his use of silver and gold bullets, clearly point, I think, to his being a slave to this fetish and, if I am right, I have doubts about his alleged sexual prowess, for the lack of which his gun fetish would be either a substitute or a compensation. I have also noted, from a “profile” of this man in Time magazine, one fact which supports my thesis that Scaramanga may be sexually abnormal. In listing his accomplishments, Time notes, but does not comment upon, the fact that this man cannot whistle. Now it may only be myth, and it is certainly not medical science, but there is a popular theory that a man who cannot whistle has homosexual tendencies. (At this point, the reader may care to experiment and, from his self-knowledge, help to prove or disprove this item of folklore! C.C.)’ (M hadn’t whistled since he was a boy. Unconsciously his mouth pursed and a clear note was emitted. He uttered an impatient ‘tchah!’ and continued with his reading.) ‘So I would not be surprised to learn that Scaramanga is not the Casanova of popular fancy. Passing to the wider implications of gunmanship, we enter the realms of the Adlerian power urge as compensation for the inferiority complex, and here I will quote some well-turned phrases of a certain Mr Harold L. Peterson in his preface to his finely illustrated The Book of the Gun, published by Paul Hamlyn. Mr Peterson writes: ‘In the vast array of things man has invented to better his condition, few have fascinated him more than the gun. Its function is simple; as Oliver Winchester said, with Nineteenth Century complacency, ‘A gun is a machine for throwing balls.’ But its ever-increasing efficiency in performing this task, and its awesome ability to strike home from long range, have given it tremendous psychological appeal.
    ‘“For possession of a gun and the skill to use it enormously augments the gunner’s personal power, and extends the radius of his influence and effect a thousand times beyond his arm’s length. And since strength resides in the gun, the man who wields it may be less than strong without being disadvantaged. The flashing sword, the couched lance, the bent longbow performed to the limit of the man who held it. The gun’s power is inherent and needs only to be released. A steady eye and an accurate aim are enough. Wherever the muzzle points the bullet goes, bearing the gunner’s wish or intention swiftly to the target… Perhaps more than any other implement, the gun has shaped the course of nations and the destiny of men.”’
    C.C. commented: ‘In the Freudian thesis, “his arm’s length” would become the length of the masculine organ. But we need not linger over these esoterica. The support for my premise is well expressed in Mr Peterson’s sinewy prose and, though I would substitute the printing press for the gun in his concluding paragraph, his points are well taken. The subject, Scaramanga, is, in my opinion, a paranoiac in subconscious revolt against the father figure (i.e. the figure of authority) and a sexual fetishist with possible homosexual tendencies. He has other qualities which are self-evident from the earlier testimony. In conclusion, and having regard to the damage he has already wrought upon the personnel of the SS, I conclude that his career should be terminated with the utmost dispatch—if necessary by the inhuman means he himself employs, in the unlikely event an agent of equal courage and dexterity can be made available.’ Signed ‘C.C.’
    —Ian Fleming, The Man With The Golden Gun, Penguin (Non-Classics), 2004, pp. 30-35

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