When an individual is subjected to being incarcerated for a significant amount of their life, that person once released has had a life experience, which impacts them greatly. Whether that impact is prosperous or not depends on the individual. While imprisoned some allow themselves to take advantage of their time by learning form their mistakes, while others utilize their time by becoming more mischievous. A prime example of someone who received a positive impact form being imprisoned is Socrates Fortlow of Walter Mosley’s Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, this specific individual learned to be zealous, compassionate and resourceful throughout his twenty-seven year sentence in jail.
From Socrates release from jail he has displayed an extremely zealous outlook on life. As a man seeking employment, Socrates zealous personality is the key factor in him receiving a job at Bounty Supermarket for boxing and delivering groceries. “I been down there ev’ry day for five days, an ev’ry day I go in there I ask ’em if they got my okay from the head office yet”, is how Socrates explained his persistent attempt to his friend Stony Wile. As a lower class, African American, ex-convict, Socrates is not the ideal candidate for employment.
One would believe that without his zealous attitude he would not have been able to obtain the job he took such pride in executing. Socrates also made a zealous attempt to modify his violent behavior. “For years he gave himself a grade everyday. Anytime he wrote down failure somebody had been hurt by those big rock-breaking hands.” Socrates found himself in physical confrontations only when he felt it was necessary. He even attempted to apply physical intimidation to beneficial use. Socrates “…swore to himself that he’d never hurt another person – except if he had to for self-preservation.” Therefore Socrates’ zealous attitude served as an aid for him throughout numerous aspects of his life.
Compassionate is the descriptive word that comes to mind when contemplating the acts of this “…convicted murderer…”Socrates compassion is especially demonstrated when he saves a stray dog and nursed him back to health after an uncaring driver hit the dog. In contrast of what many may think about ex-convicts, this one in particular has a caring heart and reached is out not only to Bruno, the stray canine but also his friend Right Burke. Right Burke was suffering from cancer and his days were limited.
Mr. Fortlow did his best to make this suffering mans last days as comfortable and enjoyable as he could. Although not a wealthy man, Socrates used his heart and his mind to initiate his goals. He not only reached his heart out to Right but also to a troubled adolescent named Darryl. “He wanted to reach out to the blubbering child and tell him that it was okay…” Socrates was the only father Darryl had in his life, so Socrates did his best to show Darryl how to be a man. He looked out for Darryl’s interest the best way he knew how. Although it’s been said in order for a person to be able to murder they have to have a lack of compassion, Socrates incarceration rehabilitated him into a man full of compassion.
Being resourceful is a personality attribute that at person with limited finances and an incarcerated individual will quickly obtain. Socrates showed his resourceful nature by actions such as cooking a whole meal on only a hot plate and restoring “… round dinette table, with three broken legs, lying in the street” into new condition. Mr. Fortlow also tended to himself when he was cut with a broken bottle by cleansing out the wound and sewing up his ripped up coat.
Socrates resourcefulness has been a prosperous effect of his imprisonment. This effect enabled Socrates to conserve his funds on things that were not necessities. “He took a bag of leftovers home at the end of every week from the store.” These were items that a financially stable person would turn their nose up at, but for someone less fortunate such as Socrates they were gourmet foods. One would tend to believe without Socrates resourceful nature, survival would’ve been made much more of a nuisance.
A man attempting to survive in a lower class neighborhood needs certain characteristics in order to survive. One would infer that Socrates was able to obtain these attributes through his twenty-seven year imprisonment. Socrates Fortlow was zealous, compassionate and resourceful and without these characteristics he would not have been able to survive.