Study Guide

Alex Cross's Trial Violence

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Chapter 20

"Not afraid in the way you think. He's not afraid the colored man's going to rape his wife or his daughter. Although, let's be honest, if you turned a colored man loose on white women with no laws against it, there's no telling what might happen." (20.17)

Notice how a stranger on a train tells Ben how scary Black men are. It's telling that many people—even characters we don't know—seem to think this way. They use the threat or fear of violence as a call to action, which only spreads more violence.

Chapter 34

"You never seen a nail made out of human bone?" said Abraham. I shuddered, reaching up to haul the plank down. (34.12)

Of all the violence that happens in the novel, this one creeps us out big time. It's disturbing that Black men are hanged and cut up to pieces. In fact, Abraham even tells Ben of toes and fingers being sold in town for fun. No one even cares about the violence it seems, so long as it's against Black people. Ugh.

Chapter 38

"There was a couple boys sitting on the sidewalk downtown. They was talkin' to each other quiet like, telling about this strike of colored men up in Illinois. Well, sir, somebody overheard what they said, and next thing you know a bunch of men jump on these boys. One of 'em, they knocked out all his teeth." (38.11)

As Ben gets to know Abraham and his grandkids more, he learns stories about the violence against Black men in the community. All of these stories have a common thread: there's no reason for the violence. It's completely senseless and a huge overreaction to the so-called "crimes" the Black men are accused of.

Chapter 67

The rope was cutting under my jaw, but it had not gone tight. I got my hand up, somehow worked my fingers between the rope and my neck. I dangled and kicked as if I could kick my way out of the noose. They are hanging you, boy, was the chant that went through my head, over and over, like a song, an executioner's song. (67.17)

As Ben hangs from a tree, he describes the brutality he's experienced. Everything—and we mean everything—on his body hurts. The only reason he's even targeted is because he befriended people in the Quarter. And because of this, we see the violent ideology of racism coming to its physical conclusion.

Chapter 87

I could plainly see that it had taken a sizable chunk of flesh out of his cheek; blood oozed down his chin. That side of his face was black with gunpowder. (87.32)

When the White Raiders shoot L.J., he brushes it off, but Ben still describes it. Everyone who takes a stand against the KKK or White Raiders is injured in some way. It doesn't matter whether people are Black or white—if they are against the White Raiders, they get hurt. It's clear they are a very violent community.

Chapter 88

"It's time to put an end to it— the violence, all the hatred against coloreds in this town. These Ku Kluxer gangs are tearing Eudora apart, limb from limb. People are living in fear, black and white. You know me, Phineas. I've lived here all my life. I was there tonight. I saw what happened. I demand as a citizen of this town that you arrest these men for murder. Right now." (88.10)

L.J. demands that the chief of police arrest people right that instant. His reasoning? The violence has gone on long enough; everyone keeps getting hurt, and there's no end in sight. Luckily the police chief listens and does just that. The bad news, though, is that it doesn't curb the violence much.

Chapter 103

"Suddenly, gentlemen, all is pandemonium—uproar and violence and chaos. Men firing guns everywhere. Glass flying. Women screaming. Suddenly there are men all around the house, trying to shoot their way in. Trying to kill the old man. Trying to kill his granddaughter." (103.14)

Jonah's retelling of what happened that night in the Quarter makes plain the destruction of the White Raiders. They weren't just there to "deliver a search warrant" like Loophole Lewis claims—instead they hurt a bunch of people for no reason at all. Senseless violence, anyone?

Chapter 133

I felt blood running down where the whip was cutting into flesh and then Eversman was on me, hitting with both fists at once. But I was stronger, and angrier too. I managed to roll over and fling him on his back. Seizing the slack end of the whip, I wrapped it around his neck so tight that with one hard tug I could break his windpipe. (133.11)

At Abraham's after the trial, Ben inflicts violence on someone else. His description sounds an awful lot like his own hanging. The only difference? Ben knows when to stop. He doesn't keep beating on the White Raiders after they've stopped, so while he does fight back, he never uses violence just for the sake of it.

A rock came hurtling across the veranda to shatter the porcelain urn on a pedestal behind me. Another rock crashed through a stained-glass panel beside the front door. (110.4)

When L.J. helps Ben and Jonah with the trial, a mob shows up at his house, threatening his wife and daughter. It's clear that the other side uses violence to force people into submission, whereas Ben and posse only use it as a last resort.

"He had no choice. He saw the blood. He smelled it—that's how fresh it was. The blood of their victims was on the defendants' hands when we brought them to him. It was on the toes of their boots." (121.9)

The smell of blood is a particularly stomach-churning idea. We hear more and more details about the crime during the trial, complete with sights, smells, and sounds. It ain't pretty.

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