Once most men are broken they will stay damaged. It takes a rare figure to come out of the fire tempered to a stronger man. Socrates Fortlow is such a man, tempered by guilt, jail and a hard life to become a better human being. Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned by Walter Mosley shows some of the grit of humanity but some of the finest as well. The rooster, Billy, starts the novel and shows Socrates a last gasp can be your most important.
As the book progresses, a job becomes a courtroom where Socrates fights for his right to work. Later when he must stop a pyromaniac, he forces himself to go against a lifetime of learned distrust and seek the police for help and justice. Socrates most telling and difficult challenge follows when he must let go of his dearest friend. Throughout this novel of urban struggle it is made clear that if a few core values are held up then your life has to be worth something. Socrates Fortlow is an ex-con. He has spent twenty-seven years of his life in jail on a rape and double homicide.
The guilt of his crime weighs all the heavier because of his victims, his two best friends. Socrates is not a saint by any means. He committed a crime everyday he was in prison ” find quote” Once out he rented a two room shack and tried to survive by collecting cans, doing odd jobs, and growing some of his own vegetables. He has been this way for eight years.
Something must change. He must do something, make a stand, anything. The death of Billy, one of Socrates few friends, is the match that rekindles his want for something better. Billy was very old but he never gave in, “The rooster was horse in his old age, his crow no more than a whisper.
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But as least that motherfucker tried” (Mosley, 24).
Despite being totally incapable of saving himself the rooster gave the slightest whisper as he died which was more than Socrates would do if he didn’t start some change and quick. Fear is what kept Socrates from doing almost anything, but with Billy having done more with his little rooster life than he had accomplished in his own, he knew that if he didn’t alter his life he would die useless. Making friends with Darryl and being willing to help him however he can is Socrates first step towards healing himself. As there friendship develops he realizes that Darryl is a lot like him and to save him would be a way to help redeem himself. A Bounty Supermarket marks Socrates spot to fight for his right to earn a fair wage.
He is instantly dismissed by the assistant manager, who does not realize how tenacious his new applicant is to get a job. Anton Crier Asst. Mgr. upsets Socrates but he will not be denied a chance, ” ‘I came for an application.’ Socrates repeated ‘But I told you… .’ ‘I know what you said. But first you looked at my clothes and at my bald head.
First yo’ eyes said that this is some kinda old hobo and what do he want here when it ain’t bottle redemption time.’ ‘I did not… .’ ‘It don’t matter,’ Socrates said quickly. He knew better than to let a white man in uniform finish a sentence. ‘You got to give me a application. That’s the law too’ (Mosley, 65) His time in prison had learned him about aspects of the law, Socrates knew the law because he had been part of the system for so long. He continued his fight knowing that he was right and just in his actions and wants.
Through perseverance and more than a little stubbornness Socrates gets his job and proves that he is more than capable of handling it. He stood his ground in front of discrimination and succeeded. This gives him the confidence to pursue more challenges both in his own life and in others. In the chapter entitled Firebug, Socrates must make an agonizing decision.
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After seeing Ponzelle Richmond leaving the vicinity of the latest blaze he follows him home and discovers evidence of him being the pyromaniac. The fact that people died in the latest blaze made up Socrates mind for him. He had to stop Ponzelle but going to the cops is a difficult decision for him. After getting the name of a black cop that is a decent man, Socrates tries to explain to him why this is so difficult for him, ” ‘Back in the joint, man didn’t talk to know screw. They find you doin’ that and there was a knife for you.’ ‘You want to tell me something, but your scared?’ Shreve asked. ‘I’m way past scared,’ Socrates said.
‘Way past that. I’m the one enforce the rules, an I ain’t never broke it’ ” (Mosley, 176) He want’s to tell the cop, Kenneth Shreve, that he knows about the ‘South Central firebug’, but every part of his being is telling him to forget it. All his time in jail he made him what he is, an ex-con with remorse but still a fear of authority figures. He knows what Ponzelle is doing is wrong but he still wants to give him a chance at a fair trial.
After much deliberation, internal struggle, and more than a few beers, Socrates talks to Kenneth. Even after all this, Socrates still can not bring himself to turn over all the evidence against the pro, it wouldn’t have been fair play and Socrates would have been signing Ponzelle’s death warrant. When the reward is offered to Socrates he flee’s thinking that this is the trap that will snare him back to where he could never go, prison. Once he realizes that he’s said to much to take it back he gives the cops what they need to make an arrest. When Ponzelle see’s the cops coming he commits suicide in order to avoid his capture. Socrates although feeling guilty about this accepts the fact that even though he failed to save Ponzelle’s life at least he tried too.
Right Burke is dying. Nothing any doctor or friend can do for him will extend his life. Socrates is Right’s best friend. Throughout the novel he has being Socrates sounding board for problems. Right is the man that Socrates would go to, to figure out a one of his problems. He is old, wise and riddled with cancer.
... through their intelligence and friendliness. This statement, "Man's Best Friend", will continue to prove itself true for years ... faithfulness that a dog and master often share. "Man's Best Friend" is often considered a household phrase. Many people ... favorite companion. This paper will explore the enduring phrase "Man's Best Friend" and the loyalty, faithfulness, intelligence, and companionship ...
Socrates plans the whole night for Right to ensure that his last will be his best, ” ‘Anything I can do for you, Right?’ ‘You already done everything you could do for me. I mean you got me morphine tablets, straight scotch, and pretty girls to watch. Shit that’s all a dy in’ man could ask’ ” (Mosley, 205) Those are all gifts that Socrates wants to help his dying friend, but he has another a clean. 45 to let him end it in his own way and time. As they sit and get drunk, they both talk about death, fear, and friends. Right doesn’t want to die but he realizes’ it’s inevitability and tries to get Socrates to accept his fate as well, ” ‘Lea ” me here, man.
Get up on that bus an’ go.’ ‘I cain’t just leave you here, Right.’ ‘Why not? You cain’t save me, So cco.’ Right threw another pill into his mouth and swallowed. ‘Just let me die, man. At least lemme have that’ ” (Mosley 207-208).
And so Socrates finally lets go and allows his friend to keep his dignity and to die when and how he wants.
Socrates lives by a code of ethics. It may not mesh with most peoples view of a sound moral structure but there is a rigid consistency to it that makes it more approachable than someone who considers themselves to be better than most. He knows he is a bad person, but he also knows that he can lay down and die or try to put some things right to make up for your crimes. Throughout the novel Socrates helps people… in his own way. He uses the slain rooster, Billy, to get through to Darryl who was already street hardened, but still salvageable.
Socrates sense of what is and what should be allowed him to fight with his mind and mouth to get a job. His need to protect the neighborhood and its population forces him to bend his rigid code but for the greater good. And his love for his best friend allows him to turn his back so that he may die as he likes, with a sense of peace and dignity. The last line when he is on the bus still with the. 45 he contemplates his own suicide but the same dignity he allowed Right stops him, ” ‘He don’t need no police car or hospital,’ Socrates muttered. ‘He don’t need none’a that shit.
Brutus and Caesar Brutus was a trusted friend of Caesar and an honorable man, or so you thought. In William ... be honorable? Brutus was a noble man in Rome and a good friend to the leader Caesar. Many looked ... up to Brutus as an honest man, and a ... side was eventually shown in the end. He was no friend to Caesar, or anyone else. Betrayal, lies, suicide ...
And neither do I’ ” (Mosley, 208).
In Socrates world its about the effort more than the outcome, but if you try hard enough you will be a man.