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Patty’s Got a Gun: The Life and Crimes of Patricia Hearst

Patty’s Got a Gun is a book written by William Graebner about Patricia Hearst. She became well known following her kidnapping in 1974, but as well she was still a fugitive as she was wanted for committing serious crimes. Patty was arrested and sentenced to jail as she was convicted of a bank robbery which she was to serve for 35 years in jail but was later reduced to seven years. Patty was associated of being a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a resistance group that was associated with terror in the US.

Based on the story of Patty and as indicated by the title of the book, ‘Patty has a Gun’ it is an indication that the book is based on violence and therefore has various strengths that make it strongly associated with terrorism and violence. One of the main strengths that the book has in regards to violence is the fact that Patty had accused the militia of several rape cases. Books that tend to lean on the theme of crime need to be as well have a narrative that is closely associated with such activities such as rape. Besides, in crime, robbery with violence is one of the main strongholds of characters in the plot as it helps in strengthening their character. From the book, Patty had been involved in various robberies that had made her a wanted criminal in the US. Patty aided the SLA in committing a bank robbery, and she did this voluntarily as she was not coerced into holding the machine gun and guarding the SLA militia from being attacked. With these accounts, the book is strongly associated with crime, and this is one of the strengths in relation to the main theme.

Apart from crime, the book is also associated with terrorism, and this is evidenced by the cases of kidnapping. Terrorists from various parts of the world have been associated with the acts of kidnapping in that they use it as a leverage to air their demands. Most of the time, the terrorists may kidnap the most valuable assets which may compel the other party to give in to the demands so that they are able to retrieve the leverage safely. Based on the story from the book, the SLA militants used Patty as leverage to get some of their members released. The SLA militants used Patty as leverage so that her parents could use their influential political status to the release of the jailed members. Therefore, with the SLA groups using the tactics of kidnapping as leverage to achieve their demands. It is, therefore, one of the strengths that fulfill the plot of a terrorist narrative as it is in line with such expectations. Terrorism is the other theme aside from crime, and thus, according to my perception, the aspect of terrorism and crime are the main strengths of the book.

Regarding the weaknesses of the book is that it does not clearly bring out the relationship between the SLA militia and Patty in that previously, Patty had accused the militia of constant rape and various threats of death. Being a member of a terrorist group, one does not face threats of being killed as they belong to the group. Besides, members of the militia are not mistreated but are rather treated with the utmost respect, and thus it cannot be understood how Patty, could be a member of the terrorist group and at the same time act against them accusing them of rape and death threats. Besides, Patty had voluntarily aided the SLA militia in robbing a bank in San Francisco and to which had kept her on the run but later accused the SLA of kidnapping, taking her as leverage as a way of demanding the release of the arrested militia, yet she had previously released a tape claiming to join SLA. The two concepts do not add up, and this can be categorized as a weakness of the book as it does not bring into the light as to whether Patty was a criminal, a terrorist or she was coerced into committing the crimes by the SLA.

The two main topics that made me want to learn more about them include terrorism and crime. In the United States, many people engage in criminal activities for various reason, but most significantly are motivated by the spirit of living the American dream that stipulates that every American have equal opportunities but the disparities in resource allocation leads to the gap between the haves and have nots, and this compels people to take what they don’t have to fulfill their needs. On the other hand, terrorism is one of the hottest topics in the globe in that it has massively impacted negatively in many countries, especially in the economic sector. September 11 will forever remain in the memory of Americans as it is the day that revolutionized the American perception of terrorism and thus makes it a topic worth gaining more insights.

All the chapters in the book were interesting, but the most interesting of all is the 6th chapter, the one that talks of Patty’s kidnapping. The reason is that it is ironical how she claimed to have been kidnaped by the militia by she could not escape when she had the chance implying that she was playing tricks with people not to understand her stance at SLA. The most important lesson learned from the book is that people might pretend to be real, but they are fake inside their hearts. For Patty’s parents, they thought that their daughter had been kidnapped as they were not aware that it was all her plans to get the arrested members of SLA released by using her parent’s influence. An individual can only be true to oneself and trust themselves alone.


Graebner, W. (2008). Patty’s got a gun: Patricia Hearst in 1970s America. University of Chicago Press.

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