The Warriors (novel)

The Warriors (novel)

infobox Book |
name = The Warriors
author = Sol Yurick
country = United States
language = English
genre = Crime novel
publisher = Grove/Atlantic Inc.
pub_date = 1965 (Original hardcover); 2003 (Paperback Reprint)
media_type = Print (Paperback)
pages = 181 pp (Paperback Reprint)
isbn = ISBN 0-8021-3992-2 (Paperback Reprint)

"The Warriors" is a novel written by Sol Yurick in 1965. It became the inspiration for the cult classic movie "The Warriors". Compared to the movie, the novel takes a closer look at the concepts of sexuality, reputation, family, and survival. Because the movie was produced in 1979, a full fourteen years after the book was printed, certain key traits were rewritten to reflect cultural evolution. The novel is loosely based on the "Anabasis" by Xenophon.

Plot summary

The novel begins with a quote from the Anabasis. In addition, throughout the novel, the character, Junior, reads from a comic book, a classic-comics version of this very story. It is the evening of July 4. Ismael Rivera, leader of the Delancey Thrones, the largest gang in New York City, calls together a grand assembly of street gangs to the Bronx. Gangs from all over the city, signaled by a Beatles song on the radio, head to the designated meeting place at Van Cortland Park in the Bronx. As per instructions, none of them carry any weapons, save for a single handgun – a peace-offering to Ismael.

Among the numerous gangs are the Coney Island Dominators, a mixed black (Afro American) / Hispanic gang who are the central characters of the novel. Representing the Dominators are Papa Arnold, the gang's leader, Hector, the second-in-command, Lunkface, the strongest and most dangerous gang member, Bimbo, the advisor, Hinton, the gang's artist and central character of the novel, Dewey, the most level-headed member, and The Junior, the youngest of the group and the gang's mascot.

At the meeting, Ismael announces his plan to all the gangs, with other Thrones relaying the message to the ones in back who cannot hear. His vision marks a grand truce designed to challenge 'The Man', society or otherwise called the 'Others'. After a stirring speech, the assembly cannot help but transform into chaos as several dissident gangs begin fighting amongst one another. When the police arrive, having been tipped off about a big "rumble", many gangs, believing Ismael has set them up, turn their peace-offering hand gun against him, and Ismael is killed.

When Arnold disappears behind the vindictive rage of Ismael's gang members, it is up to Hector, the newly appointed leader of the Coney Island Dominators, to lead the remaining delegates from the Bronx back to Coney Island, passing through enemy ridden gang turfs. When Hinton suggests removing their gang insignia: Mercedes symbols stolen off cars and converted into stick-pins from shop class at school which the gang wears on their hats - he is severely chastised. However, as Hinton is more familiar with the surrounding neighborhood, having lived there before, he is given the task of leading the gang out of Woodlawn Cemetery where they presently are, having escaped the cops during the ensuing chaos.

The gang decides to call Benny, the youth board worker assigned to their case, to come and drive them home. However, while waiting for him to arrive, the gang gets restless and jumps the subway. After a short while however, the train is stopped due to a fire, and the gang must take an alternate route.

En route to the alternate subway station, the gang encounters the Boriquen Blazers, a Puerto Rican immigrant gang. Hector meets with the leader to parley for safe passage, and all goes well until a girl, one of the Blazers’ debs, desires one of the Dominators’ insignia pins. When they refuse, the girl chastises the Blazers’ leader, challenging his manhood. For the sake of pride, the leader then demands that the Dominators remove their pins in exchange for safe passage. Things quickly escalate into an argument, with the Dominators heading off to their destination, the Blazers not retaliating because their reinforcements have not arrived. Now angry, Hector riles up the gang into a violent mood, deciding to spite the Blazers by going through their turf as a “war party” – an act performed by a gang ritual of changing the positions of the cigarettes in their hat brims.

Continuing on their journey, the Dominators realize they’re being tailed by the girl deb and a scout from the Blazers. They quickly ambush both, taking away the scout’s switchblade, then chase him off. Lunkface convinces the girl to stick around on the promise of a pin and a rank (of “sister”) in the gang. The Dominators then encounter a lone individual and instigate a fight, the girl cheering them on while they take turns stabbing the man with the stolen blade. Then, with emotions running rampant, the Dominators turn on the girl and gang-rape her, then abandon her in the street as they rush off to the subway.

Throughout the novel, the gang consistently play games of ‘manhood’, either to relieve boredom or to settle disputes among each other: waiting for the train, the Dominators have a contest as to who can urinate the farthest. Later, on the train, Hector passes out pieces of candy bars he has bought to the gang. When they start teasing Lunkface with a piece that’s fallen on the floor, he gets so angry he quits the gang right there. Hector eases the situation by selecting a member for punishment – Hinton – and Lunkface "insults” him by puffing on Hinton’s “war cigarette”. Then Hector holds another “manhood” game involving the gang sticking their heads out the train window until it passes into the subway tunnel. Hinton wins, nearly killing himself in the process.

Arriving at the 96th Street and Broadway station, the Dominators encounter a transit cop eyeing them suspiciously. Aware that the police are trying to round up all the gangs in the city, and that they are still holding the knife they used to stab the (possibly) dead man, The Dominators evade the transit cop by jumping off the train just as he boards, but more police show up and they flee: Hinton jumping onto the tracks into the subway tunnel, Dewey and Junior jumping an uptown train, and Hector, Lunkface, and Bimbo running out of the station altogether.

Running out of the train station, Hector, Lunkface, and Bimbo run into Riverside Park. Now, without the other gang members to see them, the trio removes their insignia pins so to avoid arrest. They encounter a large, fat, alcoholic nurse sitting on a bench, and Lunkface takes an interest in her. The woman is only interested in Hector, however, referring to Lunkface and Bimbo as “niggers”. Hector lures her to a secluded spot where they all jump her, and she accepts them willingly. However, when Bimbo starts rifling through her purse, she reacts angrily. When Lunkface, frustrated, hits her to keep her still, the woman retaliates with unexpected strength and starts screaming “Rape!” The trio, unable to overpower her, flee, but are promptly caught be the police and arrested.

Meanwhile, Hinton, inside the subway tunnel, takes time for some self-reflection. Feeling like a true outsider, and resenting the gang, he unleashes his contempt by writing on the wall, putting the gang down. Then, feeling guilty, he rubs out his insults and replaces them with the gang “tag” (he has been marking everything with their tag throughout the novel).

Hinton arrives at the Times Square station, the designated meeting place. While waiting for the gang he enters a public bathroom and has sex with a prostitute, shakes off a deviant homosexual and a young junkie offering sexual favors for money, travels back and forth on the shuttle to Grand Central Station and, overcome with an inexplicable hunger, eats incessantly. When he comes to an arcade, he plays a shootout game with a dummy sheriff, winning twice. Before he knows it, he has achieved everything he usually does with the gang, and wonders why he needs them.

Dewey and Junior meet up with Hinton, and the trio head off to complete their journey. Although Dewey outranks Hinton, Hinton takes over the role of leader, as he has an unexpected natural knack for the job. A pair of jocks, returning home from their senior prom with their dates, eye the trio challengingly, but Hinton doesn’t back down, feeling a sense of moral victory as he does.

Hinton, Dewey and Junior finally arrive in Coney Island. After a brief moment of celebration, Hinton, all riled up with both anger and the sense of victory, spontaneously calls out a rumble against the Lords, rival gang to the Dominators. Rushing to the Lords’ regular hangout, Hinton calls them out. They don’t respond, and Hinton celebrates this victory by drawing a huge mural on the hangout wall, insulting the Lords and celebrating the Dominators. The trio then venture back to where the Dominators’ debs have been waiting, Hinton regretfully telling the girlfriends of Hector, Lunkface and Bimbo that they didn’t make it back. Papa Arnold’s girlfriend mentions that Arnold made it home hours ago, and Dewey and Junior walk off with their girlfriends.

Hinton, not having a girlfriend, goes home. There his mother, Minnie, is in the midst of having sex with her boyfriend, Norbert. Hinton tends to the baby, who was being neglected, talks with his older half-brother Alonso, and finally crawls out onto the fire escape and falls asleep, his thumb in his mouth; a poor, creative, neglected kid trapped in a gang beneath him in an uncaring, unfeeling city.

Differences Between the Film And Novel

* The film focuses on nine members of a Coney Island youth gang actually named the Warriors; their names are Ajax, Cleon, Cochise, Cowboy, Fox, Rembrandt, Snow, Swan and Vermin. They are racially mixed.

The novel focuses on seven members of a Coney Island street gang named the Coney Island Dominators; their names are Papa Arnold, Bimbo, Dewey, Hector, Hinton, The Junior and Lunkface. All are either "black" (Afro-American) or Hispanic.

* Throughout the novel, the character the Junior reads from a comic book, a classic-comics version of the story Anabasis by Xenophon, on which the book is loosely based. There is no reference to that story in the film, although the film's plot line is much closer to the plot line of Anabasis than the novel.

* The Warriors' gang uniform consists of a red-orange pleather vest embroidered with the Warriors' logo on the back: a death's head with an Indian war bonnet shaped like eagle wings. The gang has an overall Native American theme, which is accented by the Indian-style bead necklaces and armbands worn by some members. The Dominators' uniform consist of black chino pants, high-topped black shoes, "short" jackets that are "monkey-jacket" tight (except for Bimbo, who wears a raincoat in order to carry the gang's "supplies"), and hats bearing both their "war cigarettes": black-papered, hand-rolled cigarettes put in the hat brims that signify the gang's current status (at war, at peace, etc.), depending on their position, and the gang's insignia: Mercedes-Benz symbols which the gang has broken off of cars and converted into pins in their wood-shop class.

*The Warriors never actually kill anybody, even in self-defense. The Dominators murder an innocent bystander just for looking at them.

* Rembrandt (Warriors) and Hinton (Dominators) share the role of the artist in their respective gangs, however have totally different personalities. Rembrandt is portrayed as being level-headed but weak when it comes to fighting, whereas Hinton is a lot braver and has a rep for going "psycho" every now and then. Hinton ends up being the focal point of the novel.

*In the film, the Warriors encounter a gang called the Orphans who try to prove they're tough by showing the Warriors newspaper articles of incidents and crimes done by their gang. In the novel, the Dominators encounter a gang called The Boriquen Blazers and "exchange" newspaper articles with them of their doings in an attempt to avoid trouble from the gang. Possibly Walter Hill, who directed the film, may have replaced the Dominators with the Orphans as well as the Dominators' role as the protagonists.

* In the film, the gang conclave (assembly) is called by Cyrus and the Gramercy (Manhattan) Riffs; in the novel, the conclave is called by Ismael Rivera whose gang's name is the Delancey Thrones.

* In the film, Cyrus is shot and killed by Luther, leader of the Rogues, who then blame the Warriors (because Fox caught Luther in the act). In the novel, when Ismael's conclave is broken up by the police, several of the gangs take it for a trap; their leaders pull guns(which was to serve as a peace offering to Ismael and the Thrones) and shoot Ismael.

* The Dominators are all aged from 14 to 16. The Warriors' ages are never specified (although most of the actors playing them were, at the time, in their twenties).

* Both the Warriors and the Dominators have themes to their gangs, however they are very different. The Warriors have a Native American theme, calling their leader and second in command Warlord and Warchief respectively, whereas the Dominators base their gang on a family, calling their leader and second in command Father and Uncle respectively. The rest of the Dominators are "brothers" to each other, with the third in command being "Eldest Son".

* In the film, a girl called Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) leaves the Orphans and follows the Warriors after their encounter. Mercy and Swan start up a romance. In the novel, a girl who was with the Boriquen Blazers decides to follow the Dominators after an encounter, however the Dominators end up gang-raping her and leaving her behind. In both of these situations, the girl initially tries to stir up the Warriors/Dominators by asking for a piece of their clothing. Mercy (the Orphans' girl) asks for a Warriors vest, and the Blazers' girl asks for a Dominators pin.

* Both the Warriors and the Dominators get split up into three separate parties at West 96th Street . One party (Hector, Lunkface and Bimbo) heads toward Riverside Park; another (Dewey and Junior) jumps onto another train; the third (Hinton) enters a subway tunnel.

* The Dominators never encounter a rival gang that they have to fight, as they spend the bulk of the novel on the subway, which is neutral territory, whereas the Warriors get into multiple violent situations.

* After the Warriors (in the film) fight and defeat a rival gang named the Baseball Furies, one of them, Ajax (James Remar), attempts to rape a woman who turns out to be an undercover cop (Mercedes Ruehl). She handcuffs him to a bench and arrests him. The Baseball Furies do not even appear in the novel; instead, three of the Dominators: Hector, Lunkface, and Bimbo attempt to rape an aging, alcoholic nurse, who has all of them arrested.

* Six of the Warriors make it home; only four of the Dominators make it home.

* The film's ending promises the potentiality of happiness but the novel's ending shows the coming of age for the now broken Dominators.

* In the novel, at Grand Central Station, Hinton plays an arcade game of 'shoot it out with the sherriff'- consisting of a moving mannequin sherriff and a fake gun (which the player must draw before the sherriff does). Hinton plays this game a few times, indicating his hatred and rejection of authority in general. In the film, Swan (Michael Beck), at the Union Square station, is being tailed by a rival gang (called the 'Punks' in the films credits), and, acting nonchalant, stops in front of a nearby arcade, standing right next to a 'shoot it out with the sherriff' arcade game. Possibly this was director Walter Hill's tip-of-the-hat to the novel.
* In the film, Warlord Cleon (Leader of the warriors) is jumped and (apparently) beaten to death by the Gramercy Riffs while checking on the dead body of Cyrus after Luther (David Patrick Kelly), who "really" shot Cyrus, blames the murder on The Warriors after Fox (Thomas G. Waites), one of the Warriors, saw him do it. In the book, Papa Arnold (Leader of the Dominators) is also jumped for checking out Ismael's dead body but it is revealed at the end of the novel that he makes it back "hours ago" before the three remaining members (Hinton, Dewey, and The Junior) of the gang in the end.

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