A Walk in the Night

by Alex La Guma

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 428

"A Walk in the Night" by Alex La Guma is the story of one terrible night during which an old Irishman is killed in a tenement, the wrong man is identified as the murderer, and that man is eventually killed by the police.

The old man made a small, honking, animal noise and dropped back on the bed.

Though he didn't mean to kill Uncle Doughty, Michael Adonis is now suddenly a murderer. He retreats, and his friend Willieboy happens to go to Uncle Doughty's room and find the body. Michael is witnessed trying to run out of the tenement afterward. When Michael Adonis kills Uncle Doughty, he immediately thinks that he didn't mean to do it. However, his immediate response to the murder is to escape to protect himself.

The law don't like white people being finished off. Well I didn't mos mean it. Better get out before somebody comes. I never been in here. He looked at the sprawled figure that looked like a blowndown scarecrow. Well he didn't have no right living here with us Coloreds.

As it turns out, Michael is right about the law: the person in charge of the case, Constable Raalt, isn't interested in the people in the tenement or even in the murder until he finds out that the dead man is white. He's still not completely invested in the case and is more interested in simply finishing the investigation. Constable Raalt is incompetent and racist, and he bullies people into giving him information. La Guma writes,

"Listen, man," Raalt told him. "If you don't want to talk now you can still be forced to appear in court and say what you know before the magistrate. So make up your mind."

This leads to Abraham giving information he isn't sure about, which leads to the death of Willieboy. When Willieboy is tracked down and shot, bystanders say it happened in "cold blood." They say,

That's all they know. Shooting us people.

Willieboy is young, and he dies without medical attention after he's shot. The driver suggests that they get help, but Raalt says Willieboy is fine and that they'll patch him up at the station. La Guma writes,

The driver looked down at the boy. He lay groaning, holding himself where he had been shot, and a pool of blood was forming under him, spreading on the asphalt.

In a fury, the crowd begins to attack the police officers, threatening them into retreating. The police take their time making their way to the station while Willieboy suffers and finally dies.

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