Paris Trout By Pete Dexter Essay, Research Paper
Paris Trout by Pete DexterParis Trout, by Pete Dexter, is a story about a man, Paris Trout, who shoots and kills a fourteen year old black girl. The problem is that Trout thinks he is totally innocent, for he was collecting a debt from someone who lived in the same house as the girl and, since the debtor wasn t home, Trout somehow thought that the girl should be responsible. The author makes it clear that Trout is guilty, and his entire defense, that the life of a black girl is not very important anyway, is an example of the immense racial prejudice found in the South during the 1950 s. The story continues as Trout begins to go insane and become homicidal, and how his wife and his lawyer are affected by this. This novel has some very interesting characters in it. One example is the eponym, who is very complex. We see Trout as a man who thinks that blacks are sub-humans, and he treats them as such. However, he also has a very sharp temper, and is somewhat insane. It is because of this, that he is able to kill a fourteen year old black girl without remorse. This insanity is deepened by the split with Hanna Trout, his wife, and his conviction for a crime for which he feels totally innocent. Another interesting character is Mr. Seagraves, the lawyer who defends Mr. Trout. In researching the case, Seagraves realizes that he has a connection to the dead girl and feels that she haunts him throughout the trial for defending her horrible murderer. His character is also the only one who is present throughout the entire story. Moreover, he has an affair with Hanna Trout, where he learns of more atrocities that Trout has committed, and his hatred of the man grows even deeper. His character shows the reader the changing views of that time that Southerners had of blacks. The longstanding belief that blacks are nothing better than poor slaves was beginning to dissipate. Finally, the character of Carl Bonner becomes very important in the last half of the book. Bonner is the author s example of a perfect person: he was the youngest eagle scout ever, he is a lawyer who starts his own firm in his home town, and also he is brave and willing to sacrifice his life for others. In the end, he proves to be the hero of the book by being the only one who is willing to go head on with Trout and loses his life trying to save other people.
By telling this story, Dexter tries to teach us something. Through the eyes of a crazy man, the author has shown us racial prejudice, and how it existed in the 1950 s in small Southern towns. The author conveys this message in many ways, especially through the varying relationships in the book. By portraying the various relationships, from those between blacks and whites to the fights that Carl Bonner has with his wife, Dexter highlights the changing attitudes of the time. The relationship of Paris and Hanna Trout is very interesting and develops throughout the story. Even though the two of them are not actually present in each scene, their influence on everything that happens is evident throughout the entire book. Both are mysterious people. Hanna is a very controlling woman, yet she allows herself to be abused by her husband in many ways. For example, Hanna works Parris s store for him, and he treats her as just a regular employee. She is also physically abused as is graphically described many times in the story. This relationship can be viewed in many ways. One approach is to consider the couple s roles symbolically. Hanna Trout is forced to work very hard, get abused, and receives nothing in return. This sounds very much like black slavery. The reason for this may be that Paris, who obviously symbolizes the white man, knows that he cannot enslave any blacks, so he subjugates the only thing he can his wife. I liked this book for its stories, but not as one whole work. I felt that when the trial ended halfway through the book, then the first story was done. In the last half where Carl Bonner is the main focus, I think that this is an entirely different story and the references to Trout are out of place and usually unnecessary. Dexter does not make a good transition between the two halves of the book. However, I enjoyed the basic idea for the novel.