All God's Children Summary & Study Guide

Fox Butterfield
This Study Guide consists of approximately 29 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of All God's Children.
This section contains 479 words
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All God's Children Summary & Study Guide Description

All God's Children Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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All God's Children is author Fox Butterfield's book-length case study of Willie Bosket, one of the most violent criminals in the history of the New York State Correctional System. Butterfield's study is far from ordinary, however, as he traces the roots of Bosket's behavior five generations back in time to the general culture of violence present in Edgefield County, South Carolina, where Bosket's great-great grandfather was a slave. Along with telling Bosket's story, Butterfield sets out an implicit theory of the causes of violence that extends throughout the five generations discussed in the book. The book therefore not only chronicles the Bosket family but partly serves as a theoretical inquiry into the nature of violence in the United States and the African-American community.

Butterfield begins his story in Edgefield County, South Carolina, where he marshals compelling evidence that Edgefield has always been an unusually violent region of an unusually violent state. Butterfield notes that Edgefield bucks the trend of steadily declining violence in Western European cultures that started in the sixteenth century. Instead, the Scotch-Irish culture of honor, where honor and respect are the most prized personal goods, was imported to the South. Honor cultures perpetuate violence all over the world, in Butterfield's view, because they place heavy emphasis on responding to insults and preserving reputations. The honor culture, Butterfield argues, was internalized by African slaves in South Carolina and exacerbated by the fact that violence was used to keep slaves obedient. Further, since slaves had no material possessions, sometimes honor and respect was all they had.

The culture of violence extends deep into the lives of the Bosket family from Aaron and Pud Bosket down to James, Butch and Willie. Their lives were a constant cycle of absent fathers, abusive mothers, general alienation from a loving community and a sense of terror and fear of losing respect and being unloved. Each generation seems the almost inevitable product of the previous one, despite the fact that Butterfield nowhere appeals to genetic explanations of their behavior.

All God's Children is divided into sixteen chapters divided into five parts. Part I opens the story of the Bosket family in Edgefield and outlines its history. It also introduces Aaron and Pud, the first two members of the five generations of Bosket men. Part II introduces James and Butch, the next two Bosket men, and covers Butch's childhood in Chapter 5. The next two chapters show Butch growing up and how he eventually landed in prison. Part III covers Willie's early life leading up to his first murder. Part IV somewhat merges Butch and Willie's stories, outlining some of Butch and Willie's successes, particularly Butch's shocking and admirable achievement of a college degree in prison. Part V, shows their seemingly inevitable downfall, with Butch destroying his own hard-won freedom and Willie effectively getting himself locked away in prison for life.

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This section contains 479 words
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