Study Guide

Alex Cross's Trial Race

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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).

Questions About Race

  1. How do the white characters think about race? How do the Black characters think about race? What is different or similar about their behavior toward racial segregation?
  2. Ben learns that many feel white men are afraid of Black men in the novel. What are they afraid of specifically? Does this apply to all the characters? How does this relate to their actions toward other races? And do you think Ben is right?
  3. How are violence and race related in the novel? Which is more disturbing, the fact that so many people are racist, or the fact that they use this to justify their violence?
  4. How does Ben change the way he thinks about race over the course of the novel? What doesn't change about his opinions? Does anyone else changing their opinions about race? If so, who and how?

Chew on This

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.

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