In the novel, ‘always outnumbered, always outgunned’, the author William Mosley frequently references the protagonist’s hands. The protagonist, Socrates Fortlow’s hands get described as massive and ‘rock breakers’. It is with this ‘rock breakers’ that Socrates murdered a man and a woman almost three decades ago. The novel follows the story of Socrates Fortlow after his life behind bars. Socrates has come out of an eight year prison sentence from Indiana state penitentiary for murder (Walter 21). This paper will aim towards analyzing the struggle of Socrates as he controls his boundless rage compounded by his massive hands or ‘rock breakers’. This paper will analyze Socrates hands as a theme used in the novel.
The description of Socrates hands as rock breakers signify his power and physical build. Possession of such ‘rock breaking’ hands hint towards the fact that he almost has a boundless rage as he can easily engage in physical fights. It is with the help of this hands that Socrates got to murder a man and a woman and get sentenced to a 27 year stint at the penitentiary. He killed the man and raped his woman after a drunken rage. The power of Socrates hands gets pinpointed when he grabs Daryl’s skinny arms with his mighty hands until a serrated knife that Daryl was concealing fell out from nowhere (Walter 14). Socrates hands can allow him to lift a forty gallon thrash can and walk it a full city block. This further demonstrates the power that Socrates had by his hands. Socrates gets painted as an indomitable force throughout the novel from the frequent description of his massive hands.
The author’s description of Socrates hands as heavy or ‘rock breakers’ also signifies the living standards of the protagonist. This description of Socrates hands provides the picture of a man who is undergoing difficulties and suffering in day to day life. Socrates hands accompany the violent life he undergoes. Socrates hands helped him to commit murder. They also prove useful with the job choices he encounters. Socrates lives off collecting bottles and cans and pushing a shopping cart. He later starts delivering groceries for a supermarket (Walter 56). Such jobs are physically demanding, and the author makes the reader aware of Socrates suitability to such work through the portrayal of his heavy hands. The heavy hands also portray the poverty surrounding Socrates. He lives in a shack within an alley. The embodiment of Socrates hands in the novel provides the reader with a hint of the ex convict’s tough life.
Socrates hands also symbolize his rawness in society. The description of Socrates hands as massive ‘rock breakers’ provide a rough image of the protagonist. During the midnight meeting at his house, Howard and Burke believe that only Socrates can excommunicate Petis out of the neighborhood. They believe Socrates’ experience in fights will help deal with chasing Petis away from the neighborhood after the latter commits a murder (Walter 29). The rawness represented by Socrates is evident as he gets forced to rely on his hands whenever arguments do not go his way. This conflicts with his reasoning self, which involves dialogue in the event of an argument. The ‘rock breakers’ represent Socrates uncivilized self. He got used to killing and punishing his adversaries like Fitzroy back at the prison cell and in his previous life as a convict (Walter 30).
Mosley, Walter. Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998.