Study Guide

Alex Cross's Trial Race

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A Preface to Trial

My suspicion is that what happened in Mississippi was too personal and painful for Corbett to turn into a book. But I have come to believe that there has never been a better time for this story to be told. (Pre.5)

Hmm…is it just us, or does it seem like Alex Cross is talking about racism in modern society? He makes sure to point out how timely this book is, which makes us think about whether racism is something that has gone away or if it still exists. There might not be lynchings like in the book these days, but some of these issues linger on.

Chapter 9

"Just remember one thing, Ben. That was a black boy who helped us. He was the only one who helped." (9.20)

As Ben tells us about his mom getting sick, he remembers an important detail about that experience. His mom made sure he knew it was the Black boy who saved her. It might seem like she's focusing on race a lot, but this helps Ben battle segregation and inequality later on.

Chapter 11

"I'm not a selfish woman. I admire the cases you take, really I do. I want the poor people and the colored people to be helped. But I also want something for my girls and me. Is that so wrong?" (11.8)

Meg wants her hubby to help people out, she just doesn't want it to keep coming at her expense. In other words, fighting racism comes at a price no matter your skin color.

Chapter 20

"The white man doesn't hate the colored man," he said. "The white man is just afraid of the colored man." (20.16)

This is one theory about why there are problems between the races, but it leaves us with a bunch of questions. What exactly is the white man afraid of? Does fear explain white people's actions in the text? We can't help but wonder if this is more of an attempt at justification than an actual explanation.

Chapter 36

The War between the States had been officially over for forty-three years but had never actually ended in the South. The Confederate battle flag still flew higher than Old Glory, at least at our courthouse. (36.13)

That would be the Civil War being talked about here. Importantly, we can see that ideas about race go way back—so it's not just a matter of telling everyone to get along. Ideology and notions of different races formed over several generations and are hard to change.

Chapter 38

"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 warns his grandkids about the unfair rules for Black people in the community. It's a sad truth, but he has to drill this into them to keep them safe. The reality is that these kids are perceived as different before they even open their mouths to speak, and it's dangerous.

Chapter 39


The warning Ben receives is on the back of a photograph of a man being lynched. It's disturbing, to say the least. Not only does the photo seem to parade around the fact that lynching is taking place (scary), it also shows how dangerous Ben's operation is. Just by investigating lynching, he's aligned with Black men and women, and as such, against white men. Or that's how the White Raiders see it at least.

Chapter 92

Judge Corbett and men of his class had gradually enshrined that inequality in law, and the highest court in the land had upheld its finding that "separate but equal" was good enough for everybody. (92.8)

According to Ben's dad, Black people have it just fine. Who cares that they aren't integrated into society and work like slaves for white men? That should be good enough. Even judges and police officers in town think racial equality is a joke.

Chapter 103

"This case is not about race. It is not about the black versus the white. This case is much easier than that. It's a simple matter of justice." (103.22)

Despite what Jonah wants the jury to believe, every case is about race in Eudora. It's clear that Black citizens can't get a fair shake because of their race, which makes justice little more than an illusion for them.

"Nearly every one tells me the lynching reports are greatly exaggerated. There are no lynchings in their towns or districts. The N**** is living in freedom and comfort, and the white southerner is his boon friend and ally." (14.5)

At first, we're not sure what to believe: President Roosevelt claims that politicians report back no lynching or problems in the South, while newspapers give gory details about them taking place. It's clear that race is an issue, we're just not sure how big of an issue at this point.

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