Richard Wright’s novel The Outsider begins with the story of a man, Cross Damon, who continually seems to get the short end of the stick in life. Throughout “Book One: Dread” Cross finds himself in various situations that go from bad to worse fairly quickly. It is obvious to the reader that these circumstances come about as a result of Cross’ own wrongdoing, he is the reason why he is always in so much trouble throughout the first part of the book. He clearly harbors a fault that continually brings him down. Cross’ dread that he will be disappointed is his biggest flaw in the first part of Wright’s The Outsider.
When Cross was a boy he watched his mother suffer the consequences of living under the shadow of his fathers infidelity. It hurt her so badly that she raised Cross in an environment that led him to believe that being let down or hurt by others was the worst thing that could happen to a person. “Though she loved him, she had tainted his budding feelings with a fierce devotion born of her fear of a life that had baffled and wounded her.” (Wright, 22) This dread or fear of disappointment is all Cross has ever known, it is the only way he knows of to protect himself from a world full of let downs.
Cross is so scared of the pain of disappointment that he often hurts those around him to protect himself. When he was younger he married Gladys and settled down with her. They seemed to have a great life up until the day their first child was born. Cross was so terrified by the possibility of becoming truly happy with Gladys that he started sleeping around with other women. Being happy with Gladys meant sharing his life with her. That kind of love is the product of giving enough of yourself to another person that would allow them to completely destroy you if they wanted but trusting them not to. Cross could not do that. He could not risk the possibility that Gladys might one day let him down. So he did the only thing he knew how to do, he ruined the relationship.
After realizing that there was no way Cross could allow himself to be happy Wright tells us that, “He was now haunted by the idea of finding some way to make her hate him. Her hatred would be a way of squaring their relationship, of curing her of her love for him, of setting her free as well as himself.” (Wright, 71) In the end he comes up with a plan that successfully leaves Gladys hating him. He then sets his sights on Dot, a young woman he meets in a liquor store. It seems like he is falling for her like he could not with Gladys, “His bond with her grew deeper with the passing days, for it was with her that, for the first time in his life, he found himself talking freely, emptying out of his soul the damned up waters of reflection and brooding thought.” (Wright, 42) Cross seems to make an innocent mistake when Dot becomes pregnant, but the way he handles the situation suggests that he is trying to get rid of her, she has gotten too close. Again he is attempting to ruin a relationship because he is afraid of being eventually let down.
Cross feels he has been given the perfect opportunity to be free when a train accident leaves everyone believing that he is dead. “All of his life he had been hankering after his personal freedom, and now freedom was knocking at his door, begging him to come out.” (Wright, 107)