Naked Lunch | Study Guide

William Burroughs

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Naked Lunch | Chapter 2 : The Vigilante | Summary



The narrator reveals the story of a man he only identifies as the Vigilante. When the Vigilante is caught by police he "copped out as a schizo possession case." In a federal courtroom he talks about "trying to stop those hangings with ghost fingers." He is sentenced to a federal mental institution, where his body and mind deteriorate further.


The narrator doesn't clearly relate the nature of the charges the Vigilante faces, but he drops hints at what the Vigilante has done. From Chapter 1 the reader knows the Vigilante has a propensity for violence. The Vigilante's babbling about hangings he tries to stop implies he has done the hangings because his violence has become a compulsion. He is unable to help or stop himself. He is sent to a mental institution, which should be a place where he can get treatment and recover—a nominally better choice than prison. In practice there is little difference between the hospital and prison. Either way the Vigilante is left to his own decline.

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