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The Themes of Redemption, Racism, and Poverty in Walter Mosley's Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunne


The following essay will evaluate the underlying themes of the crime fiction novel titled Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned by the American novelist, Walter Mosley. The thesis will argue that the theme of redemption is played out in this story as well as how the protagonist learnt from his mistakes to tackle challenges though his life after prison. The novel is set in 1995-96 in Los Angeles. A number of themes are discussed in the novel but the most prominent is racism. The protagonist, Socrates Fortlow, has committed double homicide (rape and murder) and for which he has served 27 years of imprisonment (Mosley 28). After serving quite a significant part of life in incarceration, he has been struggling to make himself free from guilt and remorse.

Now he is looking forward to living a moral and spiritual life dedicated to betterment of himself and his spiritual being. His struggles to emancipate his mind from compunctious feelings he settled down to a very new place where nobody knows him and none can make him feel guilty for his past misdeeds. But after serving this many years in prison, he becomes very resilient and positive towards life. His unflagging resilience supports his on -going struggles in a completely new life (Mosley 14). After coming out of jail his primary challenge was not his slight and short -lasting violent temperament but the debilitating and exasperating guilt and cruelty and anger that he holds against himself. His struggles are not only against himself but also against the white community. Because his black community has been facing inequality for long. He, an African- American, starts earning the living by collecting detritus from roads and turns it into useful objects and meets his both ends (Mosley 28). It is a metaphor of the life of AfricanAmericans who are living a miserable life.

Vulnerable to every assault, harassed by the white, facing inequalities of legal system, overlooked by the police, racial hierarchy in communities and poverty have all been pestering his budding composed mind (Mosley 88-89). He chooses to break the legal laws because he knows that the authorities will blame him whether he 2 commits crime or not. He knows that his being black permits the authorities to punish him for even slightest crimes. Rather than succumbing to the police he chooses to escape and turns out being violent. 

Even after committing a great deal of crimes, he is a good person. Because whatever he did is his past and now in the present, he is trying to lead a morally fulfilled life. Mosley’s narrative voice and Socrates’s actions displays his good deeds. After earning livelihoods by collecting dirt from the nearby streets, he starts working in a grocery store to live a resourceful life. Darryl, a young black boy, meets Socrates. Socrates finds his own self in Darryl. Darryl commits crime, is a vagabond, murderer, rough and incorrigible person as Mr. Fortlow was in his earlier life (Mosley). Darryl reminds him of his early life. And after bearing the brunt of his wrong doings he never wants Darryl to make the same mistakes and bear the same consequences. Because the mistakes have devastated his later life by filling him with guilt and hatred for himself. He to some extent has succeeded in preventing Darryl from walking on the same path.

His transition from a murderer to mentor adds meaning to his life. But not even till the end he realizes his good deeds. Socrates’s transition- in all the 14 chapters the book consists of, in each chapter a completely new face of the protagonist comes out. After coming out of the Indiana prison, he moves to the Watts community. Instead of begging and doing other illegal crimes, he earns money to kill hunger. He considers himself a bad person. But he always keeps offering help to strangers and the community, though unable to realize his good things from the chapter ‘crimson shadow’ to the last one ‘the last rites (Mosley). from the beginning when he saws Darryl, he offers him food and place to stay to relieve his own sufferings by doing some good, till the end, helping his best friend Right Burke. Who is about to die of prostate Cancer, Socrates fetches him morphine as Burke’s cancer is inoperable and he has left little time to 3 live. By taking morphine he wants to energize himself and enjoy the little time by going out, having fun and meeting the people he loves.

“He had learned, when he was a boy, that next meal was never a promise; only a fool could not eat when he could” (Mosley 41). This quote in Socrates’s words depicts real picture of African-American’s in united states of America. Poverty is a social issue that is displayed in the novel. Even Two meals of a day are not a surety for the black there. They are called dogs, creeps, hogs and what not. many cultural signifiers are used there in the novel. Such as speech patterns, dressing sense and bodily gesticulations are some of the them for the black. To conclude, in this crime fiction novel, Walter Mosley depicts real scenario of the lives of the black. Serving in jail for the crime Socrates is able to make himself free but Guilt and hatred for himself ruins his later part of life as well. He keeps doing good and helping others but never realizes his own worth. He always feels pathetic whenever his past acts come to his mind.

No people to love, no close friends to share feelings with he starts his journey to feel the life and enjoy its phenomenon. By mentoring Darryl, a murderer, he feels soothing. He feels that by doing so he can save the boy’s life and assumes that he saved his own life somehow. Every time when Socrates takes Darryl to the Marvane street Darryl used to ask him that why he went to such an ugly place. He retorts by saying that whenever he visits this street it reminds him of his past.

The title of the novel shows a racial face of the American community. “We always outnumbered, always outgunned” is a coded message that the protagonist of the novel explains Darryl. Always outnumbered means that the black has to be strong because they are minority and may be outgunned by the forces because of separate and racially distinct identity.

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