Quotation by Robert Warshow

The gangster's world is less open, and his arts not so easily identifiable as the Westerner's. Perhaps he too can keep his countenance, but the mask he wears is really no mask: its purpose is precisely to make evident the fact that he desperately wants to "get ahead" and will stop at nothing. Where the Westerner imposes himself by the appearance of unshakable control, the gangster's pre-eminence lies in the suggestion that he may at any moment lose control; his strength is not in being able to shoot faster or straighter than others, but in being more willing to shoot. "Do it first," say Scarface expounding his mode of operation, "and keep on doing it!" With the Westerner, it is a crucial point of honor not to "do it first"; his gun remains in his holster until the moment of combat.
Robert Warshow (1917–1955), U.S. author, critic. Originally published in The Immediate Experience (1970). "The Gangster as Tragic Hero," Oxford Book of Essays, Oxford University Press (1991).
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