Nick Aaron Ford
Motley's thesis [in Knock on Any Door] is that a perfectly good boy, with Christian parents and a good social background, can be molded into a shameless criminal within a brief period by unfavorable environmental forces….
One of the chief characteristics of Motley's style is the poetic quality of his language. His vivid imagery and satisfying rhythms make him a master of prose.
Another characteristic of Motley's style is the effective use of contrast [such as] the contrast between the goodness of Nick as an altar boy and his badness afterwards…. (p. 32)
[The] design by which Motley supports his thesis is superior to that of Richard Wright [in Native Son].
For instance, Nick Romano, Motley's protagonist, is a good boy at the beginning of the story. He is kind, sympathetic, lovable, obedient to his parents, ambitious, and deeply religious. The reader is permitted to watch the transformation of this boy's character…. [In Native Son, on the other hand,] Bigger's anti-social acts can offer but limited support to the theory of environmental responsibility. Wright tells us that Bigger would have been less cruel and less barbarous under more fortunate environmental conditions, but he presents no evidence or experience from Bigger's past life to substantiate his claim. (p. 33)
There is [an appropriate symbolic] incident in Knock on Any Door...
(The entire section is 559 words.)