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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Brat

cover image By: Brewer, Gil (male)
Publisher: Fawcett Publications, Inc. (Gold Medal Books 708)
Place of Publication: Greenwich, Connecticut
Catalog #: Kelley Box 203: PS3503 .R44984 B7 1957
Contributor: D. DiLandro

General

Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Gil Brewer Geographic Locale: Florida Date of Publication: 1957 - 1st printing  |  Original Date: 1957 Setting: rural; initial action occurs in a mid-sized Florida town, but there is not a great deal of description. The remaining action occurs in the swamps of the Everglades, with descriptions of the lush, torrid flora and fauna. Motives: robbery, murder, adultery

Plot Summary

Lee Sullivan wanted to get married. His fiance was killed by a drunk driver, dead in the wreck of the new Oldsmobile Lee had bought for them. Despondent and "hollow", Lee slacks around, spending his money with no plan in mind. On a fishing trip to the Florida swamps, he encounters Evis Helling. Evis, an under-aged little monster, uses sex and sexuality to get Lee to rescue her from her family and the swamp. Later, in a larger city, Evis plans the robbery of the firm where she works, framing Lee. He tracks her back to the swamp, where she's run off with Lee's old buddy, Ed. Evis has Ed killed (or perhaps she does it herself) after she abandons him for her swamp-lover (and possibly her own cousin), Berk, who is later shot by the police. Rona, Evis's sister, helps Lee track down the criminal Evis and clear his name. Evis is caught, and Lee and Rona go off, evidently a happy couple.


Major Characters

Lee Sullivan adult male, physical characteristics are notably lacking; one has the impression of height and strength but this is not really supported by the narrative; a slacker and former sign painter who finds work in a printing shop and eventually opens one of his own (the business fails)

Hugo DeGreef adult male, an "outsider", not from the swamps; big, huge hands, blonde eyebrows, short-cropped thick hair, thick lips, heavy chin, very small, very black eyes; local sheriff, bemoans the fact that he isn't accepted by the locals, and just can't seem to make a proper arrest

Evis Helling adolescent female, about 13 or 14 years old when the novel opens, alternately a "blitzkrieg in tights" and a "swamp whore", thick, ash-brown hair, an "impossibly small waist", "lush perfection" of hip, even, white teeth, deep blue eyes, full breasts, red lips, "a fused explosion, a direct wallop". She ends up doing secretarial/accounting work for a building and loan association, otherwise she simply spends money to buy pretties; married to Lee Sullivan

Berk Kaylor adult male, "black-haired, raw-boned", clear, black eyes; doesn't seem to do much, though he knows the layout of the swamps

Ray Jeffries adult male, Evis's boss at the savings and loan

Ed Fowler adult male; "relaxed" type, redhead; writer who makes a living recounting the experiences he's had traveling the world

Rona Helling adolescent female, slim, striking, black eyes and hair; exudes a "patient kindness" but also intensity; helps Lee Sullivan navigate the swamps in order to track down Evis and Berk


Weapons

guns


Level of Violence

no particular sentiment comes across when the violence is described; it's all rather straight narrative


Sexuality

while sex is often alluded to, (and more often, the power of sex is mentioned), sex acts themselves are never shown. In several instances, the narrative describes the heated actions leading to sex (exposed flesh, loaded double entendres) and, in the next line, picks up after sex has occurred. Statutory rape is pretty well indicated in the text, when Lee describes the sex he has with Evis, who is 13 or 14 years old at the time, as "rape, any way you look at it". Incest is also a possibility when Evis comments that Berk is her cousin and that sex with him has "always been that way." In both the rape and incest scenarios, while the text does not condone them, neither is there any real proscription against them.


Gender Roles

regardless of sex, all characters inhabit approximately the same economic level. The men have a freedom of movement not necessarily afforded the females. For example, Evis needs Lee to get her out of the swamps and Fowler to take her back. Rona needs Lee to take her away, she is perhaps, unable to leave her family permanently on her own. The author seems to imply that men act while women think, not necessarily because it's inherent to them, but because of their particular station in life. Sexist boundaries are erased; both men and women want something, and are willing to some extent, to manipulate others to get it.


Ethnicity

race plays no part in the plot; it is possible that the swamp people have Seminole or other Native American blood, but this is unimportant in the overall tone of the text.


Alcohol/Drug Abuse

drugs play no part in the novel; alcohol plays only a tangential one. As an escape, Lee drinks to forget about the tensions of his failing business and his crazy wife. Ed drinks right before the robbery, ostensibly to steady his nerves. Alcohol may occasionally be a crutch but not a motivator within the context of the novel.


Law Enforcement

until the end, when there are a number of nameless, faceless police around, the law is exemplified by Hugo DeGreef. An outsider who wants to be recognized and admired by the swamp people, DeGreef is obsessed with capturing Sullivan in order to promote his own standing. He is clearly willing to go all out; the narrative describes him as "obsessed" -- a sort of one-man war. While DeGreef opposes Sullivan's assertion that he is innocent, after overhearing Evis and Lee late in the story, he is willing to step forward, at the very end, to clear Lee's name.


Added Features

Rona believes that the swamp will destroy Evis. It doesn't like evil, she explains. It isn't played up, but it casts a strange pall over the universe of the text: it isn't so much nature versus civilization, it's nature versus people. After all, as the Hellings show, getting back to nature, getting away from the corrupting influences of civilization, may not be a good thing. The names are suggestive: Hugo DeGreef, who initially causes grief, but ultimately saves our hero; the Hellings, who, though truly hellish, are not really from Hell.


Subject Headings

Florida/ Robbery/ Murder/ Adultery


Psychological Elements

presence/tacit acceptance of statutory rape and incest. The theme of obsession runs throughout the novel in various characters, whether it is obsession with another person or an idea. All the characters, to some degree, are waiting, slacking, and while it is desire that spurs you on, the text almost shows that anything you do will lead to ruin, that the only sensible cure for life is sitting there, doing nothing. Catatonia, really, is better than facing the world, which is out to get you anyway.