Just Mercy

by Bryan Stevenson

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Student Question

What are some quotes from Charlie in Just Mercy?

Quick answer:

What we find most interesting about Charlie in Just Mercy are the moments when Charlie is silent or quiet. With Charlie, we notice how trauma links to a loss of voice. It's almost as if his intense, acute feelings are independent of words. When Charlie shoots his mom's boyfriend, there's quiet. When he first meets Bryan Stevenson, he's silent. Again, the quotes we’d pick would link to Charlie’s lack of quotes or dialogue.

Expert Answers

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As you might already know, Just Mercy is Bryan Stevenson's true story of how he harnessed his Harvard Law School education to help those who have been wrongfully convicted or whose sentences have been inordinately punitive.

As you also might already know, Charlie is one of the people Stevenson helps. Charlie is being tried as an adult for shooting and killing his mom's violent boyfriend. Though he is 14, the judge puts him in an adult prison. What happens here? He's sexually assaulted. Stevenson enters and helps get Charlie into the juvenile system.

As for quotes, the quotes that we find most revealing aren’t quotes as much as moments of silence or moments without talking. We're thinking about when Stevenson meets Charlie for the first time. Stevenson tells us how Charlie "wouldn't make eye contact with me." He writes how Charlie "was staring intensely to my left, looking at the wall as if he saw something there."

The above shows us how trauma can leave you without a voice. We hear so much about using our voice and the importance of speaking up that we might tend to take it for granted. With Charlie and his silence, we see what it means to be victimized, to experience trauma, to truly not have a voice.

Another quote connected to Charlie involves how he cares for his mom after her boyfriend knocks her out.

Sitting on the kitchen floor with his mother's blood all around him, Charlie could feel himself starting to tremble,

says Stevenson. He also tells us how "Charlie had been slowly stroking his mother's hair."

As with the first quote, the two above have to do with silence. The intense feelings don't need words. We know Charlie's upset because he's trembling. We know he loves his mom because of how he strokes her hair.

One last quote is,

The room grew very, very quiet. And that's when Charlie pulled the trigger.

Again, in the quotes we've pulled, we've noticed how trauma leads to quiet, sometimes explicitly. We like the quotes that demonstrate body language over more verbal communication. Perhaps you can find more quotes like these, or perhaps you can find other quotes that are more aligned with what interested you about Charlie.

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