Few phenomena exemplify the pervasive threat of gun violence in America more than mass shootings in suburban schools. In recent years, a social discourse has grown in response to the epidemic. Two versions of the school shooter have emerged within this discourse: the hypermasculine figure of infamy and the bullied misfit. This article analyzes Stephen King’s Rage and Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, contemporary novels that portray disturbed adolescents who try to occupy the hypermasculine persona. This persona functions as a symbolic mask that the character pieces together from personal conflicts and trauma. Yet the mask also conceals individual identity, serving as a one-dimensional expression of carnivalesque violence, which cultural narratives undercut when the spree is over. The paradox, then, is in the way the characters attempt to solidify an “authentic” hypermasculine identity by donning, for a brief moment, a terrifying and yet generic mask.


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pp. 99-115
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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