You don't have to get very far in Alex Cross's Trial to figure out that race is a big deal. In fact, it's at the heart of pretty much everything in the book. Every court case, conversation, and friendship is subject to this one central idea. In pre-Civil Rights Mississippi, skin color affects the way characters treat each other and the way they are treated in turn. The history of slavery still haunts everything, even influencing lawyers, police, and courts, so that things we usually take for granted like justice and fairness only come your way if you look a certain way (ahem, white).
Race, more than any other single element, drives the plot and characters of Alex Cross's Trial. Without the theme of race, the book would not exist.
Much as Ben aims to fight racism, in positioning him as a sort of white savior character, the book is actually pretty racist.
You might think the truth is easy to pin down, but in Alex Cross's Trial, it means different things to different people. There's the truth that Ben knows about race—it's only skin deep. And then there's the truth the KKK members tell themselves—that they're just protecting what's rightfully theirs. This is just a sampling of the takes on truth in this book. We get a lot of different versions, and while everyone claims to support the truth, most characters actually just want their understanding of things to come out on top. In other words, the truth is a hot mess in this book.
Alex Cross's Trial shows us that truth is touted so often in the courtroom because it does not exist within the justice system. Everyone can't be right, after all.
Moody might lie for noble reasons, but she still participates in the lack of truth in the Eudora courthouse and this undermines any benefit gained from her lie.
As you've probably noticed, change is inevitable in life. Still, sometimes we resist change because we like things the way they are, and we're afraid of what might happen if we shake things up. That's exactly what many in Eudora are afraid of in Alex Cross's Trial—and precisely what's necessary for their town.
In a town governed by racism, many white citizens want to keep on keeping on, with Black people working themselves to the bone and being denied all kinds of fair treatment. Thing is, change is needed for everyone. It isn't just Black people who are suffering from the violence and chaos that constantly erupts in Eudora. But just because change is necessary doesn't mean it doesn't have a price. But hey, change is rarely easy.
Regardless of Ben's hard work, nothing really changes in the book. The white citizens of Eudora are just as racist at the end as they are when the book begins.
Even though Ben loses the trial, his hard work is the beginning of change in Eudora. His fight sparks a defiant attitude in citizens who have long desired equality.
It looks like no one ever told most of the characters in Alex Cross's Trial to use their words. The white citizens of Eudora repeatedly resort to punching, drowning, lynching, shooting, and stabbing men for no reason other than racism. What's worse? They turn violence into entertainment. Citizens build a grandstand and hire a photographer for the lynchings so whole families can watch them together, complete with refreshments. This cavalier attitude toward violence only makes what they are doing that much worse. It's one thing to hurt someone, but it's something else entirely to take such delight in it.
Violence is primarily used in the novel to shock and make sure readers hate the White Raiders.
Physical violence in the novel is simply a symptom of the deeper ideological violence of racism.
Simply put, there's nothing just about what's going on around Eudora. What makes this such a compelling theme in Alex Cross's Trial, though, is the fact that some people think the actions of the White Raiders and KKK are justified. In fact, most white citizens see nothing wrong with them, and Ben is appalled by the fact that many of his former friends willingly grab their guns to hurt Black people simply for saying or talking a certain way. Trouble is, with white people running the courts, there isn't anything particularly just about the justice system either. Yikes.
It is impossible to be racist and have an accurate sense of justice.
It's impossible to come up with a definition of justice everyone will agree on. What justice means to individual people is always going to be different.
While he's lucky not to literally get stabbed in the back, Ben gets double-crossed many times in Alex Cross's Trial, and he's more hurt by these betrayals than anything else. Jacob turns out to be a full-fledged KKK member; Elizabeth tells Ben's plan to her hubby and his White Raider friends. The betrayals Ben experiences lead him to question everyone and everything, and as he does, the book forces us to think about the nature of betrayal and why people are disloyal to those who need them the most.
Betraying friends is an acceptable and necessary part of survival. Even though Jacob betrays Ben, he would be betraying his own ideals if he supported the guy.
Ben might be upset about the duplicities of his friends and family, but he betrays just as many people in the book as deceive him.
Religion is a tricky subject in Alex Cross's Trial (and at the dinner table). At first glance it seems the Eudora community fervently believes in the Bible since they quote it left and right and hang out at church. Upon closer inspection, though, many of the white people who claim to be Bible supporters actively hunt down Black people and kill them, which seems to go against a bunch of laws in the Bible, like, say, "thou shalt not murder." Ben is left scratching his head about whether his old neighbors really care about their religious beliefs or not. A lot of them can quote the Bible, but that doesn't mean they practice what it says.
Alex Cross's Trial does not take issue with religion as a belief system, but with using religion to create an institution that rules over people's liberty.
While many treat religion hypocritically in the novel, the Black members of the community show the importance of genuine religious beliefs.
We bet you've heard this one before: ff you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. See, sometimes being passive about a situation only allows injustice to continue. Just take Eudora in Alex Cross's Trial for example. Many citizens aren't directly involved in lynching people, but they also do nothing to stop it. And President Roosevelt does the same—he knows there's trouble in the South, but instead of dealing with it, he lets it run its course. Sure he sends Ben down there to investigate, but he doesn't get out of the oval office and actually do anything to stop the violence. In these ways, the book asks us to think about whether inaction is just as bad as action.
Passivity is presented as a negative character trait in Alex Cross's Trial—the passive characters are just as much to blame for the lynchings in Eudora as those who kill people.
Even though Ben would rather everyone join the fight against lynching, the truth is that passivity is not as bad as he imagines it to be.