“Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned” by Mosley Essay (Book Review)

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Jan 30th, 2021

Is Socrates Fortlow a hero?

Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned focuses on a fictitious hero, Socrates Fortlow. He is an ex-convict living in Watts, a black neighborhood in Los Angeles following his release from prison for killing two people. Having learnt from prison life, he makes a living by collecting cans and later in a Supermarket. He is legitimately trying to live life better and an advocate for his community.

Instances making Socrates a hero are numerous. However, one notable one is when he encounters a ‘businessman’ who is boasting of his wealth in a neighborhood dinner. As he interrogates the businessman to find out how he makes his wealth, the man proudly declares he does not rob his fellow ‘blacks’ but dresses funky and snatches purses in “white” neighborhood parking area. He later dresses in suit to wade off suspicion and drive imported fancy cars.

He aggrieves Socrates after noting that he was robbing fellow ‘blacks’. “…when you are done, people going to look at me like am dirt. They fear me because you were pretending to be me, stealing from them” (Mosley 49). In the Marvane Street, Socrates exposes police racist mentality on the way they handle ‘blacks’. He notes, “they worried ‘bout them young Negroes. They fear they could be making bombs. Even worse, they will get other blacks to vote… black police spying black college kids… this is not law” (Mosley 88-89). It takes police fifteen minutes to respond to calls in the black community. For whites, they do not keep a peep.

Socrates offers street justice that the area never got the police. He reasons that the incidences are because of racial prejudice. However, he rises above this belief that ‘blacks’ are inferior. He does not let it stand in the way of his survival. Despite of criminal past, he is a hero. He solves a number of disputes of life in his community. Socrates is a logic thinker and analyses situation beyond clear consequences of conduct.

How is the theme of redemption played out in this story?

The theme of redemption is evident in the entire story. The main character, Socrates, was a criminal in the past. However, he is currently advocating for integrity in his community. He earns a living by doing a real job not using criminal means. He was able to achieve his job success because he was patient, persistent and true to his resolutions and newly adopted irreproachable morals.

Socrates managed to get a job under conditions as bizarre as those of Bounty Supermarket did. He notes ‘if I do not work, cannot afford a phone’. On the other hand, he claims ‘If I don’t have a phone then I cannot work’ (Mosley 76). He insisted on going to Bounty until when he got a job there. He says if he did come to check on his would be bosses they would not consider him because probably they threw out his application already… ‘am not a kid, am fifty-eight years on and unemployed and, therefore, not hear old age benefits, if I don’t get a job I will starve’ (Mosley 58). Socrates later encourages Darryl “to take control of his life and stand up for himself against oppression and the harsh world” (Mosley 59). This is a way of redeeming himself from getting into criminal life or succumbing to harassment from others.

In the incident where Darryl fights Phillip, Socrates thinks that was brave when Darryl took Phillip’s gun to defend him. … ‘You stood for yourself, Darryl’ (Mosley 131). He insisted that what a black person was supposed to do, fight for him. As Darryl cries that the boys he fought would still get him, Socrates encourages him that the principal part was that Darryl stood for himself and the rest he would handle it.

How does Socrates seek an alternate path in the story?

Socrates is extraordinarily smart, confident and experienced having gone through serious trouble in life. He spent time behind bars and knows too well, how the system can be dangerous. He also understands the law and uses it in his defense whenever confronted with challenging situations.

At the beginning of the story, Socrates meets Darryl at six in the daybreak. He is on his way out of the alley to see Billy, his rooster, because he did not hear him crow. He saw a boy at the fence. The boy was barely twelve years but Socrates knew convicts well, he saw a convict stare in him. The boy turns away. Socrates grabs him only to find Billy dead. He drags the boy to his house where he makes him cook the rooster he killed. This is not ideal for an ex-convict.

He could have gotten angry with Darryl for killing his rooster and probably beating him up thoroughly. However, his experience from prison, he knew a better way of dealing with the case and later in the chapter Darryl admits killing a retarded brother.

At Bounty supermarket, the conversation with Anton Crier is an enthralling -‘I came for an application’. He begins. The phrase he practiced the entire day so that he would be polite to his would be boss, who was merely a boy according to him. Anton Crier asks him of his age. Realizing that Socrates was supremely confident, Crier dismisses him asking him to come back later when school are open. He then wanted to leave Socrates standing. However, Socrates grabs him and repeats ‘I came for an application’.

Socrates exercises a fantastic deal of self-control to be polite to other people because he understands that they best way of fighting for his rights was just to speak out. He had travelled a long distance to that place. He hoped to get the application and that someone would stand up for him. As much as he felt Crier did not like him because he was older, he did not get violent with him. He strongly showed his determination to get an application.

Works Cited

Mosley, Walter. Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned. New York: Washington Square Press, 1998. Print.

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