D. Thom Jones, “The Pugilist at Rest”

Thom Jones served in the Marines during the 1960s, but never deployed to Vietnam.

The story: A former Marine and Vietnam veteran describes the death of a fellow Marine in combat and wonders how it connects to the violence that characterizes his own life.

Characters: An unnamed first-person narrator, a Marine Vietnam veteran. Jorgeson, another Marine. “Hey Baby,” a third Marine.

Themes: Veteran anger, difficulty of describing war, attitude toward enemy and foreign noncombatants, war’s violence, the civil-military divide

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does the narrator want us to know about Jorgeson? Why was Jorgeson important to him while he was in the Marines and at the time he is telling us the story?
  2. What is the narrator’s attitude toward his own life? What does he think he has accomplished? What does he think he has learned?
  3. How do the passages in which the narrator tells us about his epilepsy connect with those in which he tells us about his time in the Marines?

For further exploration, watch this video book-review of “The Pugilist at Rest”:

Find “The Pugilist at Rest” here:

Pugilist at Rest2


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