Study Guide

Ben Corbett in Alex Cross's Trial

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Ben Corbett

It's pretty easy to get behind a guy who's adamantly against racism in an era riddled with racists. But what makes Ben Corbett, our leading man in Alex Cross's Trial, so loveable isn't his moral compass, it's that he's willing to fight for what he believes, to leave his family behind and head into the Deep South to confront racism head-on. Unlike other characters who simply pay lip service to equality, Ben walks the walk as much as he talks the talk.

Putting the Our in Courtroom

Despite social norms at the time, Ben fully believes that all people, regardless of race, are equal. Hey, we're totally behind that. Back when he was a kid, Ben remembers his mom telling him that a Black boy helped save her life, something she told him more than once to make sure he'd remember it later on:

I did as she instructed. I remembered it through grammar school, high school, college, and law school. I remembered it whenever colored people came to my office in Washington with worried faces and tears in their eyes, asking for my help. (9.21)

Ben's mom set her son on a path, so by the time he became a lawyer, racial injustice and equality were ingrained in him. Now he wants to make sure the courtroom belongs to everybody, no matter their skin color. He doesn't care what race you are—if you need a lawyer, Ben's your guy.

Lessons Harvard Doesn't Teach

Despite growing up with a mom who encouraged him to champion the oppressed and receiving a top-notch education at Harvard, Ben still isn't prepared for what he finds in Eudora. Not only does he witness racism, brutality, and lynching first-hand, but in refusing to participate in racism himself, Ben winds up on the wrong side of the mob and it's not long before he, too, is strung up from a tree and left for dead.

Even though Ben makes a physical recovery, his experiences in Eudora leave him a changed man. He realizes just how deeply racism runs. At one point when he's fighting against the White Raiders, Ben realizes that this fight:

[…] was violent payback for a lynching, a hanging, a beating, a murder. I heard the thud of club against flesh, the crack of rock striking bone. Terrible cries erupted as the colored men overwhelmed the Raiders, avenging the lynchings of their brothers, the oppression and torture and murder of fathers and friends. (132.22)

Can't say we blame Ben for wanting to throw a few punches after nearly being killed, but importantly, Ben only fights back—he's never the one to instigate a fight, nor does he kill people if he doesn't have to. In fact, one of the differences between Ben and the White Raiders (aside from their entire belief system) is the fact that Ben knows when to quit. He doesn't become violent for violence's sake, nor does he let hatred overtake his sense of morality. Despite being attacked and outcast, Ben sticks to his guns.

Family Man?

In the end, Ben runs home to Washington, D.C. to be with his family again. We're pleased he wants to hang out with his wife (instead of back-stabber Elizabeth), but we're not sure what the future holds for them. On the one hand, Meg has spent most of the book trying to end their marriage, which makes us think the future doesn't look pretty for Ben. But on the other, Ben finds Meg waiting for him at home:

Then Meg came into my arms too. "I'll never leave you again," I whispered. True to my word, I never did. (140.16)

Aw. After fighting the good fight, Ben is rewarded with a happy ending at home. Too bad similar rewards don't await all the Black people living down in Eudora. For them, the fight rages on, an important reminder that much as Ben might be a good guy, he's also an incredibly privileged one, too. He visits racism instead of living a life constantly threatened by its oppressive ways. For more on this, though, be sure to check out Abraham's page in this section.

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