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The Perception of Violence in Michael Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid An issue that arises in almost any medium of art, be it music, literature or film, is whether or not that the depiction of violence isn't merely gratuitous or if it's a valid artistic expression. There can be no doubt that Michael Ondaatje's lengthy poem The Collected Works of Billy the Kid is a violent task, but certain things should be kept in mind before passing it off as an effort to shock and titillate; certainly, the poem does both of them, however they aren't the principal goal of the job. For one thing, social context has to be considered; Billy lived at the "Wild West", a time connected with range wars, shoot-outs along with amazing train robberies. The entire legend of Billy the Kid has been assembled around his criminal activities and notorious reputation; really, the more popular that this myth becomes, the more people he's accused of being murdered. If anything, it was a cultural fascination with violence which "created" the legend, perhaps even more so than anything that the "real" Billy ever did. Michael Ondaatje remarks on this happening and actually provides an alternative vision of who Billy the Kid was; perhaps he wasn't merely a blood-thirsty killer but a man who, due to circumstance and human character, was continually being pushed over the edge. Ondaatje is much more concerned with the motives behind the acts of violence compared to the acts of violence themselves: "A rationale? Some reasoning we can contribute to describe all this violence. Was there a source for all this? Yup -" (54). If they jolt, it's to jolt the readers from complicity and encourage them to think about the essence of violence and their own capability to it. Though it is more.