How to Make a Slave and Other Essays

by Jerald Walker

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Simple Summary and Analysis

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As Walker’s fourteen-year-old son endured the frustration of his father’s driving lessons, showing no real “capacity” for learning to drive, Walker recalled his own driving debacle when he was sixteen. Holding a beer in one hand and a joint in the other, Walker was steering with his knee when he hit two parked cars and then fled the scene. 

Because both of his parents were blind, Walker hoped that his father would never learn that the car had been in an accident. Tired of walking everywhere, Walker’s parents had purchased the car as a means of transportation, relying on their teenage children to serve as their drivers. When a summons to appear in court for a hit and run arrived in the family’s mailbox, Walker’s father interrogated his children. Walker’s siblings immediately denied any involvement; his father asked Walker what he had to say about the summons, calling him “Simple.” Walker had earned this nickname for various escapades throughout his childhood that had lacked wisdom and resulted in numerous injuries.

After a slight hesitation, Walker denied any involvement in the accident. When his father insisted that one of them was lying, Walker offered to attend court with his father; his older brother later told Walker that this response was “tantamount to a confession.” 

Walker indeed accompanied his father to court, and as their last name was loudly called, Walker rose with his father to proceed to the front of the courtroom. His father quickly assembled his cane, sweeping the aisle as he and Walker walked toward the judge. Before they reached their designated location, Walker whispered his confession to his father and apologized. His father quickly told him that he knew the truth already. 

The bailiff called the witness’s name, but no one appeared. Looking at the young Walker, the judge proclaimed, “This could be your lucky day, Thomas.” Jerald Walker pointed out that he was not Thomas. Confused, the judge looked at Walker’s father and asked if he was Thomas. Walker’s father affirmed his identity, and the judge asked whether he was blind. Walker’s father acknowledged that he was; he then agreed that he owned the vehicle in question. To this, the judge replied, “Please tell me you don’t drive it.” At this point, Walker joked to the judge that if his father drove well, he “wouldn’t have hit the two cars.”

Walker’s father maintained a serious composure, but Walker began grinning. The judge burst into laughter, followed by the bailiff. As the entire courtroom joined them, even Walker’s father began laughing. The judge dismissed the charges as Walker’s father took his son’s arm once more and they made their way back down the aisle of the courtroom. 

Analysis 

Walker earned the nickname “Simple” from his father because of his tendency to under-analyze situations which might cause him harm. Yet this chapter also presents the simple yet powerful bonds of family. Though unable to physically read his son’s facial expressions to ascertain guilt, Walker’s father proves adept in his knowledge of his son’s character. Father and son stand side by side in the courtroom, both knowing that young Walker has indeed committed a hit and run and not knowing how the situation will be resolved. Walker’s father neither condemns his son for his crimes nor supports his deceit. Instead, his physical presence is a testament to a father’s simple support of his son, regardless of outcome. As the pair exit the courtroom, Walker’s father takes his son’s arm, leaning on his son for physical guidance. Walker, meanwhile, clearly leans on his father for moral guidance, as the older man proves the effectiveness and strength of quiet and simple leadership.

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