Onion Field By Joseph Wambaugh Book Report

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¶ … Onion field" by Joseph Wambaugh True crime novels often have a way of fictionalizing the action to too great an extent. The people in the book become caricatures of the people that they really are, and it makes the book read more like a fictionalize representation than a real story. Unfortunately, truth is stranger than fiction, and many times the author is actually attempting to tone down some of the action that actually took place so that the story will not seem too brutal. Life is brutal sometimes though, and it is necessary to give the details of heinous acts so that the reader understands the depravity of the characters introduced. This is the case in "The Onion Field" by Joseph Wambaugh. The author gives a true account of the details of the crime and what transpired during the subsequent trials to the people convicted of the action. The main characters are Powell and Smith, the robbers, and Hettinger, the surviving cop. Campbell, Hettinger's partner for a brief period of time was the victim of the shooting that takes place. This paper will examine the events portrayed in the book and summarize them.

The book "The Onion Field" is the story of two police officers who believe that they are making a routine traffic stop, and instead are disarmed...


They are having a mundane day, and it is one of the first for the youngest of the two, Hettinger (Berger). Hettinger is worried throughout the trip that he will not be able to live up to the notion of being a cop. He was just moved from the traffic ticket division, and he realizes that felonies is a lot worse than what he is accustomed to. Campbell tries to calm his fears by telling stories of his own past and by getting Hettinger to talk about his family. They stop Powell and Smith for a broken tail light, but Powell, who is easily agitated, pulls a gun on Campbell and gets Hettinger to release his (Wambaugh). The two cops are taken to an onion field, and Campbell is shot because Powell is afraid of going to the gas chamber for kidnapping. Hettinger escapes this punishment, and is able to call the police with assistance from a farmer (Wambaugh).
What happens in the rest of the book is a look at the three characters that survive the slaying of Campbell. The other cop, Hettinger, is constantly inundated by his own guilt (because he gave up his gun as his partner asked), and his fellow police officers are aloof from him because they believe that he was a coward. The robbers first go on trial together, but…

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Works Cited

Berger, Douglas. "The Death of Conscience in the 'Onion field'." California Literary Review, 2007. Web.

Wambaugh, Joseph. The Onion Field. New York: Delacorte Press, 1973. Print.

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