Study Guide

Norman Oglesby in Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

By Ben Fountain

Norman Oglesby

Norm is super duper rich, super duper fake, and super duper good at getting his way. He's also the owner of the Dallas Cowboys.

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Billy is thinking if you took every person he's ever known in his life and added up the sum total of their wealth, this presumably grand number would still pale in comparison to the stupendous net worth of Norman Oglesby, or "Norm" as he's known to the media, friends, colleagues, legions of Cowboys fans, and the even mightier legions of Cowboys haters who for whatever reason—his smug, kiss-my-ass arrogance, say, or his flaunting of the whole America's Team shtick, or his willingness to whore out the Cowboys brand to everything from toasters to tulip bulbs—despise the man's guts even as they're forced to admit his genius for turning serious bucks. Norm. The Normster. Nahm. (All Americans.1)

Pretty much no one ever got filthy rich by being a good person, and neither did Norm. Norm's got to his lofty elevation in status by being the consummate businessman:

Norm's skill at working a room is legendary. Charisma, charm, command presence, he brings all these to bear in the smile and personal word he has for each and every guest, he is the indisputable pivot point and center of the room and Billy can see the skill with which he manages things, and yet, and yet...He is so on, is Norm. He is working so hard. He has all the right moves but betrays a salesman's stress in the doing, or that of a mediocre actor who hits his points but seems cramped by a too-tight collar, a twist in his underwear. Norm is confident, absolutely, he is the king of self-esteem, but this is the confidence of self-help tapes and motivational mantras, confidence learned as one learns a foreign language, and so the accent lingers in his body language, a faint arthritic creak in every smile and gesture. (All Americans.57)

It's important to remember that being a successful businessman is Norm's first priority. You know how some Christians stop to think "What Would Jesus Do?" when they have to make big decisions? Well, Norm's mantra is "What Would Money Do?" He's completely motivated by winning.

Does that make him a villain in this story? Depends on how you look at it. On the one hand, he's not that likeable, especially after he lowballs the Bravos with the movie deal; but on the other hand, he's not out to screw them over, either. He just needs to make sure he's gonna win.

But perhaps it's just that kind of obsession with winning at all costs—whether it's football games, money, or power that is being won—that is part of what is wrong with the society Billy Lynn comes home to?

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