Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned Themes: Redemption can be found throughout the book. Socrates, the main character, has spent twenty-seven years in prison for a violent crime that he committed. The legal system punished him for his crimes, but they did not attempt to rehabilitate him. While in prison, he committed more violent crimes than he committed before his incarceration. The Capricorn bookstore is what led Socrates to redemption, not prison. He is definitely a reformed man. He is now perceptive, compassionate and persuasive. Once he only acted on impulse, but now he reasons out what is right and what is wrong.
He tries to do the right thing, and he guides others to make the right decisions through questions and rebuttals. “Crimson Shadow” Summary The novel begins with the main character, Socrates Fortlow, going outside into the alley beside his home. Socrates is investigating why Billy, an old rooster Socrates considers his friend, is not crowing this morning. The sun is just coming up, and Socrates views the alley as almost pretty with the debris in the alley bathed in half-light. Socrates finds a boy, Darryl, standing in the alley with a cardboard box. The boy tries to run when Socrates confronts him, but Socrates stops him.
Inside of the box is Billy. He is dead. Socrates forces Darryl to take the box containing the dead rooster into his tiny, rundown home. Socrates questions Darryl as to why he killed his friend. Darryl seems relieved when he finds out Socrates is talking about the rooster. Socrates forces Darryl to pluck the chicken and to sit there while he cooks the old rooster. “Midnight Meeting” Summary Right Burke, Stony Wile, Howard Shakur and Markham Peal are all sitting in the impoverished home of Socrates discussing a serious matter. Howard’s daughter, Winnie, saw Petis stab and rob LeRoy.
Howard is seeking advice about how to handle the situation. Socrates questions Howard further. He wants to be certain Winnie really saw what Howard is claiming she saw. The men conclude that if Petis is responsible, he is also probably responsible for other murders and will not stop on his own. Three of the men have different opinions on how the situation should be handled. Right thinks they should kill Petis. Markham thinks they should go to the police. Stony feels they should tell everyone in the neighborhood about Petis and let the situation take care of itself. We get another glimpse into Socrates’ past.
The discussion sparks a memory from when Socrates was in an Indiana State prison…. “The Thief” Summary Socrates pays a visit to Iula’s diner. He visits the diner at least once a month, on Tuesdays. Iula serves meatloaf on Tuesdays and that is one thing he is not able to make on his hotplate in his small home. Socrates has been out picking up bottles and cans. He does not like the way the men treat him at Crenshaw’s. They make him wait, while they stand around telling jokes, and then they check every can and bottle before accepting them. After getting his money for the bottles and cans today, three men jump him.
Socrates receives a cut on his wrist from a broken bottle, but otherwise he walks away the winner. Iula shows concern over his wrist. Socrates has already taken the time to stitch his slashed sleeve. Iula tells Socrates he has no business out there collecting bottles and cans and offers him a job… “Double Standard” Summary Socrates is waiting for a bus. It is pouring rain, and the streets are mostly deserted. Across the street from the bus stop he sees two lovers standing under the ledge of an abandoned shop. Socrates imagines that the shop was once a bakery because of the blue and white checks on the window.
He pictures the bakery full of hard working black people working long hours and earning good pay. Socrates tries to give the couple as much privacy as possible under the circumstances. Ralphie, according to the woman’s passionate cries, is on the heavy side. The girl is small and much younger. The girl’s bus is coming down the street and the couple runs to the bus stop. When they do, Socrates finds out the girl’s name is Linda. Ralphie does not want to let Linda go, but he finally releases her hand, and the bus drives off… “Equal Opportunity” Summary Socrates is trying to get a job.
He has been practicing how to ask for an application. After taking three different buses to get there, he walks into the Bounty Supermarket on Venice Boulevard. In his eyes, the store is a glittering palace with a religious feel. The everyday noises of the store all mesh together into a music that lulls Socrates. Socrates is approached by the Assistant Manager , Anton Crier. Socrates asks the man for an application. Anton stalls for a moment and then asks Socrates what kind of application he wants. Socrates tells him a job application and feels that the man is making him beg already. Anton then asks Socrates his age.
Socrates lets Anton know that it is illegal to discriminate based on color, sex, religion, infirmity or age. Anton tells Socrates that he knows that, but they do not have any openings at the… “Marvane Street” Summary Darryl returns to visit Socrates. It is pouring rain, and the boy is cold and hungry. Socrates believes all eleven-year-old boys are hungry, especially when they are poor. Socrates feeds Darryl, and as the boy shovels the food into his mouth, Socrates feels the urge to slap and shake the skinny child. Socrates wishes a man had felt that type of love for him before he had gone wrong.
He views Darryl as a troubled child; a lost soul who did wrong but doesn’t fully know it. Darryl tells Socrates he has been having a recurring nightmare that keeps him from sleeping. In the nightmare, Darryl is in a large room with the lights out, but he is able to see the boy with the cut in his neck screaming and coming after him. Darryl always wakes up before the boy gets him, but he thinks that if the boy… “Man Gone” Summary Corina Shakur shows up at Socrates’ home looking for Howard. Corina is upset, because she and Howard had an argument the night before, and he has never stayed out all night.
Socrates asks Corina what she and Howard fought about, and she tells him that she told Howard he should get a job at McDonald’s or someplace until he can do computer operations. Howard has not had a job in nine months, and they have cut Corina’s hours at work. When Socrates suggests that Howard is lazy, Corina defends him and says he is just proud. Socrates says that Howard is not too proud to let his wife bring in all the money. Socrates goes on to explain that black men are always complaining how hard things are for them, but they are too proud. Children and a loving woman are much better than pride.
Socrates tells Corina that Howard… “The Wanderer” Summary “The Wanderer” takes us back to Socrates’ release from prison and his move to California. Socrates had his first fight in his new surroundings within a week of his prison release. A man by the name of Charles Rinnett was trying to impress his friends and chose to degrade Socrates in the process. In the end, Charles ended up being the one degraded. Socrates broke Charles’ nose and knocked him to the ground three times before the man decided to stay down. Socrates sees Charles around Watts collecting bottles and cans.
Charles has grown shabbier. Sometimes he wishes he could apologize to Charles for breaking his nose. He often has imaginary conversations with the man, trying to motivate him to do something with his life. In his conversations, Charles tells Socrates that they are both at the bottom of the white man’s ladder, and neither one of them can climb… “Lessons” Summary Darryl has moved in with Socrates. The two of them are sitting in a park waiting on Philip, a neighborhood gang banger, so that Darryl can confront him. Darryl is scared, but Socrates tells him that he has to do this.
While they are waiting, Socrates tells Darryl that he had a dream about his momma. Darryl tells Socrates he has been dreaming about a naked Yvette Frank, telling him how much she likes him. Socrates says he is dreaming about manhood. When Philip shows up with two other thugs, Socrates leaves Darryl standing there alone. Philip takes the first swing at Darryl, but misses. Darryl hits Philip in the chin with a right cross, but it does not affect the gangbanger. As the fight intensifies, Socrates intervenes by knocking out and disarming the other two thugs.
He then slaps a gun from Philip’s hand and slaps him off of… “Letter to Theresa” Summary Socrates is very sick with the intestinal flu. He has not been able to call in sick and is concerned about his job. He is not able to make it from one room to the other. All he can do is sleep and dream. He dreams of Theresa. The dream seems so real to him. In his dream, he comes home to her after being beaten badly. She comforts him until he falls asleep. When he wakes back up in the dream, she has bandaged his cuts. He looks into her eyes and sees every cut and bruise he has ever had in them.
She wants to know when he is going to stop all of this. Theresa tells him she can’t go on worrying and taking care of him. Socrates tries to tell her not to go, but he can’t. Darryl then wakes him up asking him what he… “History” Summary Socrates has been inside for three days watching riots on his muted television. He stays inside, not because of fear of what might happen to him, but because of fear of what he might do. “The smoke coming through the cracks in his apartment walls smelled of sweet revenge. ” Everything that has happened to Socrates in the past wants out there on the streets, but he stays inside.
While he is watching the television, he sees a billboard he is familiar with topple over. Socrates knows that the billboard is falling on top of a bookstore that he visited regularly when he first got out of prison. He had been waiting for his violence to bubble over and erupt until he visited the bookstore. The bookstore changed him. It was a place that he could read and talk with others without being chased out for not buying anything. “Firebug” Summary When Socrates visits Stony Wile’s cousin, Folger gives Socrates a long lecture on the faults of the LAPD.
Folger brings up the dozen fires that have been set. A squatter and his girlfriend were killed in the most recent fire. Some people are speculating that the fire department is setting the fires for the white landlords, but Folger thinks it is the Koreans trying to steal everything. Socrates tells Folger that he knows some real nice Koreans, and it is the businessmen, even black men, that want to steal everything. Folger believes the fires are a part of a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top, but Socrates says, “Maybe it go to the heart, Mr. Wile. Socrates thinks that everything is rotten and that maybe burning it all down is the only way to straighten things out. Socrates asks a high school kid, Bruce Tynan, working with… “Black Dog” Summary This chapter opens with Socrates standing before a judge. His attorney is stressing that Socrates has paid for his previous crimes and has been living a productive life on LA. The prosecutor is stressing that Socrates has killed in the past, and this is a violent crime that brings him before the judge. While Socrates is in the holding cell, he has to pass the holding cell’s initiation.
A baby faced man named Peters is harassing him. He chokes Peters to the brink of death and then releases him. A large, bearded black man by the name of Benny tells a curious guard that he was just showing Peters a trick. Peters nods that he is okay. Socrates has now established that he is not a man to be taken lightly. Socrates decides that Benny has appointed himself as leader. He knows he will have to go up against Benny… “Last Rites” Summary Right Burke is dying a painful death from prostrate cancer. He is asking Socrates to get him a gun so that he can end his misery. Socrates is trying to talk Right out of it.
He tells Right that he can’t do that in Luvia’s house. Right says that he can come to Socrates’ house, but Socrates asks him how that would look to the police. Right then says he can go to the park, but Socrates tells him that he can barely walk to the end of the block, so he knows there is no way Right can make it to the park. Socrates visits Hogan’s Snooker Room looking for Blackbird. Blackbird is a man that is probably as bad as Socrates, if not worse. The Snooker Room is a place to get illegal things and the police are paid their street insurance so there is never a problem….
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