A Walk in the Night

by Alex La Guma

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Why is Willieboy such an important character?

Willieboy is the victim of a cycle of violence and oppression. He lives in a world where his life can be ended by an officer who has no justification to shoot him because he has done nothing wrong, but this is not surprising to Willieboy because he interprets reality based on what he knows. Although Michael is fighting against his own oppression, as seen through his interest in education and desire for a life outside of the ghetto, Willieboy cannot imagine it because he has never known anything else.

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Willieboy is an important character in the story A Walk in the Night because he embodies the cycle of oppression in his neighborhood. He is resigned to his fate and does not aspire for better, as seen in the story. He sees Michael as an individual who is fighting reality by trying to be “good” and not participating in crime. Willieboy comes from a violent home where his father exercised violence against his mother, who did the same to him, and this cycle did not stop with him, as seen when he beats up an old man because he has nothing Willieboy could steal. As events unfold he is mistakenly associated with the murder of an alcoholic, which his friend Michael committed without his involvement. Willieboy is eventually killed by a racist police officer in connection with that particular crime. The police officer, who is racially motivated, unjustly shoots an unarmed suspect (Willieboy) in the plain view of the public.

Willieboy is important to the story because he personifies the struggles of people living under oppression, and because of such conditions, they begin to live impoverished lives while oppressing their own. The cycle only ends in death.

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