Study Guide

Abraham Cross in Alex Cross's Trial

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Abraham Cross

Ben is presented as the hero of the story, but he's nothing without Abraham. See, Abraham's Black and lives in Eudora; he's the guy Roosevelt tells Ben to find in order to get to the bottom of what's happening in the small town. Before Ben contacts Abraham, he doesn't think things are too bad—the town is segregated, but so is pretty much everywhere at this point in time, so no biggie from where Ben's standing. When he hooks up with Abraham, though, honest Abe gives Ben the behind the scenes tour, showing him the lynching trees and making it crystal clear that there's more violence in Eudora than meets Ben's privileged white eye.

Luckily for Ben, Abraham's kind, welcoming, and patient. He's a genuinely good guy, fighting a genuinely good fight, and despite a lifetime of oppression by white people, he opens his home and life to Ben. Since Ben couldn't gain his hero status without him, let's take a look at this epically good guy.

Grandpa Knows Best

You might feel like you've encountered characters like Abraham before. You know—an oppressed person who helps a non-oppressed person be awesome, dropping little truth bombs of wisdom but never seeking any glory because he's too wise to be concerned with such frivolous vanity. Think: Lucius Fox in Batman Begins.

If this sounds kind of like the ultimate grandpa figure in some ways—endlessly wise and supportive, but never competitive—then in Alex Cross's Trial, it makes sense that Abraham is literally Moody and Hiram's grandfather. He's positioned as a grandfather metaphorically, though, too. As Ben puts it, "maybe it was because he looked like a picture of silver-haired wisdom. I just don't know. But the truth is, I liked Abraham Cross from the moment I met him" (33.1). Ben calls Abraham "a picture," making it clear that Abraham is a type, a representation, rather than a fully developed character.

Abraham's wisdom doesn't stop at his looks, though. He is full of good advice, offering it up to anyone who will listen. He's a pillar of the community, and the people of the Quarter all support him and look to him as one of their leaders. With his older age, patience, wisdom, and selflessness, Abraham is there for any and all to lean on. If this feels like a kind of racist representation of a Black character in a book that is all about fighting racism, well, we won't disagree.

It's a Mad World

Along these lines, some of the advice Abraham has to give is to his grandkids about race. Abraham knows that Black people are beaten and hanged in Eudora for the littlest things, and he drills this reality into his grandkids' heads:

"See, when you're colored, you always about this close—" he held up his fingers, indicating a tiny space—"to sayin' the wrong word. Or lookin' the wrong way. And that means you this far from gettin' beat up, or kicked, or punched, or cursed. Or gettin' strung up and killed by the KKK." (38.7)

Abraham's advice here gives us a window into what life is like in the Quarter. Ben might witness lynchings and inhumane treatment while he's there, but Abraham shows what it's like to be treated differently day in and day out just because you're Black. That Abraham is so good, so wise and caring and generous and devoted, only makes the terribleness of this violence all the more, well, terrible. In keeping Abraham simply good, racism is clearly bad.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Abraham isn't just wise, though, he also holds unwavering hope that the world will change. He's been through hell in his lifetime, seen war and buried his own grandson because of bigotry in the community, and yet he still believes that someday the world will be a better place. As he explains to Ben about blood on the battlefield:

"[…] that's when things begun to change. A big change at the first, then they took it back. But what happened in that courtroom…that'll change it. You just wait. You'll live to see it." (127.10)

In this passage, Abraham—from his deathbed—reassures Ben that it's okay they lost the trial, letting him know that time will prove that Ben has really saved the day. Despite living a life of race-based oppression, Abraham boosts Ben up, letting the white man know that he did good, exonerating him of his guilt and frustration despite the fact that Abraham's family and friends will continue to live in this terrifying town long after Ben has settled back into the safety of his life in Washington, D.C.

Abraham's hope, then, is a service to Ben, as much as it is a sort of perverse way to valorize Abraham. In order for Abraham to be so good, he needs to maintain his faith in humanity, despite the fact that humanity has often shown little faith in him.

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