Arc of Justice

Arc of Justice

by

Kevin Boyle

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Gladys Sweet Character Analysis

Gladys Sweet is Ossian Sweet’s wife and baby Iva’s mother. She grew up in Detroit, where her stepfather’s career as a popular musician allowed her family the wealth and status to live in an otherwise all-white neighborhood. Gladys attended all-white schools, where she learned social graces that belie her steely, forceful character. Despite her clear intelligence, she does not complete college, since her family expects her to marry and become a housewife. She insists on joining Ossian at the house when they move in, and in the aftermath of the shooting, she is arrested and charged with the murder of Leon Breiner along with her husband and brothers-in-law, Otis and Henry Sweet, and John Latting, William Davis, Joe Mack, Norris Murray, Hewitt Watson, Charles Washington, and Leonard Morse. Because she is the only one in the house who never touched the weapons, her lawyers get her released on bond; while the 11 wait for the first trial to conclude, she becomes their public representative. She enjoys her celebrity and struggles to concede the spotlight to Ossian when he, too, is released. Tragically, she contracts tuberculosis, likely while in jail awaiting the first trial, which she gives to Iva. She spends the final years three years of her life living apart from Ossian, in Arizona, trying to recover her health, but she finally succumbs to her illness at the age of 27.

Gladys Sweet Quotes in Arc of Justice

The Arc of Justice quotes below are all either spoken by Gladys Sweet or refer to Gladys Sweet. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
).
Chapter 1 Quotes

No matter how many advantages families along Garland Avenue enjoyed, though, it was always a struggle to hold on. Housing prices had spiraled upward so fearfully the only way a lot of folks could buy a flat or a house was to take on a crippling burden of debt. The massive weight of double mortgages or usurious land contracts threatened to crack family budgets. Men feared the unexpected assault on incomes that at their best barely covered monthly payments […] And now they faced this terrible turn of events: Negroes were moving onto the street, breaking into white man’s territory. News of their arrival meant so many things. A man felt his pride knotted and twisted. Parents feared for the safety of their daughters […] And everyone knew that when the color line was breached, housing values would collapse, spinning downward until Garland Avenue was swallowed into the ghetto and everything was lost.

Related Characters: Ossian Sweet, Gladys Sweet
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 16-17
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

Then, a woman who lived across the street from Bristol’s house mounted her porch and launched into a harangue. “If you call yourselves men and are afraid to get those niggers out,” she screamed, “we women will move them, you cowards!” That was it. Almost instantaneously the mob began stoning the house. Someone approached the police to ask if they would step aside for five minutes; it wouldn’t take any longer to drive the coloreds away. When the inspector refused to move his men, the mob stoned them too.

Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

The Klan was in the ascendancy; the Negroes’ white allies on the bench had deserted them; the mayor they had helped to elect had endorsed injustice and declared the pursuit of civil rights a threat to peace and liberal democracy. No longer was this simply a question of whether the Sweets were justified in firing into the mob on Garland Avenue. Now the Talented Tenth was locked in combat against segregation itself, battling to preserve some shred of the promise that brought almost a million people out of the South in the previous ten years, to show that the North was different, to prove that there were places in America where Jim Crow would not be allowed to rule. This had become a fight over fundamentals.

Related Characters: Ossian Sweet, Gladys Sweet, John Smith
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

Ossian was quoted as saying in late September, “I am willing to stay indefinitely in the cell and be punished. I feel sure by the demonstration made by my people that they have confidence in me as a law-abiding citizen. I denounce the theory of Ku Kluxism and uphold the theory of manhood with a wife and tiny baby to protect.” Tough as nails on the night of the shooting, Gladys became in White’s hands a black Madonna, her arms aching for the child she could not hold. “Though I suffer and am torn loose from my fourteen-month-old baby,” she said, “I feel it is my duty to the womanhood of the race. If I am freed I shall return and live at my home on Garland Avenue.”

Related Characters: Ossian Sweet (speaker), Gladys Sweet (speaker), Iva Sweet, Walter White, Leon Breiner
Page Number: 220
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

When the proceedings resumed at half past nine on Thursday, November 5, the courtroom had been transformed into a tableau of American justice. On a simple bench along one wall sat the eleven defendants, Ossian and Gladys side by side on the far end, exchanging occasional whispers but otherwise watching events with grim-faced concentration. Against the opposite wall sat twelve of their peers—in name if not in fact—arranged in two neat rows of chairs set behind a low railing. Between the two groups in the well of the courtroom stood the representative of the people, the accuser facing the accused as the finest of Anglo-Saxon traditions required, a handsome young white man come to say why eleven Negroes should spend the rest of their lives in prison paying for their crimes.

Page Number: 267
Explanation and Analysis:

Ossian didn’t have to testify. No one could have objected to his refusing, so great was the responsibility: if he said the wrong word, put the wrong inflection in his voice, sat in a way that struck the jurors as too casual or too confident, grew rattled under cross-examination, succumbed to a single flash of anger, whatever sympathy Darrow and Hays had won for the defendants could be lost, the entire defense destroyed. But Ossian didn’t refuse. Undoubtedly he agreed out of pride—the intoxicating sense that in the past few weeks he had become the representative of his race and the champion of its rights—and, as always, out of obligation. He would do what his lawyers wanted him to do, what his wife and brothers and friends needed him to do, what his colleagues surely expected him to do. He had no choice, really, but to take the stand.

Page Number: 288
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

Ossian’s sense of himself soared with all the acclaim. When the Harlem rally was finished, Walter White dispatched the Sweets on a six-day tour of NAACP branches. The association wanted the couple simply to appear at each venue, say a few words of thanks, and stand by quietly while the association’s director of branches […] appealed for contributions. But whenever Ossian saw the people waiting for him […] he began to hold forth like the luminary everyone said he was […] Although he claimed to be no orator, Ossian “thundered” at his audiences, according to the Chicago Defender, trying to impress them with a mix of exaggeration, self-righteousness, and more than a touch of arrogance.

Related Characters: Ossian Sweet, Gladys Sweet, Walter White
Page Number: 306
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Arc of Justice LitChart as a printable PDF.
Arc of Justice PDF

Gladys Sweet Character Timeline in Arc of Justice

The timeline below shows where the character Gladys Sweet appears in Arc of Justice. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Where Death Waits
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
...in Detroit in 1921, built a medical practice in the Black Bottom neighborhood, and married Gladys. They honeymooned for a year in Europe while he completed postgraduate medical education. Despite his... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
The house should have been one of Ossian’s greatest accomplishments. Gladys wanted a house with a yard for their daughter, Iva, to play in. The house... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...and Rosewood, Florida prove as much. But despite his fear, Ossian didn’t want to disappoint Gladys or appear cowardly to colleagues, including Dr. Edward Carter, who specifically encouraged him to buy... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...Dr. Carter specifically told Ossian that white people were bullies who needed to be confronted. Gladys also refused to be intimidated, although her Northern upbringing, light skin, and proximity to white... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...will draw less attention. And they plan to stay off the streets as much as possible—Gladys must even limit trips to the grocery store. The police department offers temporary security. But... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Ossian and Gladys Sweet move into the house midmorning on the 8th assisted by their chauffeur Joe Mack,... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The following morning, Joe Mack drives Ossian and Gladys to the furniture store. In the afternoon, Gladys visits her family and Iva, and Ossian... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
...great relief and surprise, he finds the street quiet. But in the kitchen, a frightened Gladys tells him that her friend Edna overheard a white woman threatening violence on the streetcar... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
In the kitchen, Henry helps Gladys prepare dinner. Henry possesses more charm than his aloof, formal brother Ossian. Nevertheless, he adores... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
...his pistol. He ducks into the bedroom to calm himself, and he is there with Gladys when a rock crashes through the window. Just then, a taxi pulls up in front... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
When Schuknecht rings the doorbell again, Gladys answers it. Immediately, policemen flood in, turning on the lights and rounding up the defenders.... (full context)
Chapter 4: Uplift Me, Pride
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Against this backdrop of increasing violence, Ossian meets Gladys at a dance in 1922. Gladys was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her single mother luckily... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
...America. Through the spring and summer of 1923, he works out the trip’s logistics, despite Gladys’ pregnancy. She delivers a premature baby boy in July who dies three days later. Thus,... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
...Ossian with knowledge far beyond the medicine practiced in the  resource-starved Dunbar Hospital. In Vienna, Gladys discovers that she is pregnant again. Then the couple moves to Paris, where Ossian listens... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...Ossian makes a sizeable donation to the American Hospital in Paris, it refuses to allow Gladys to deliver there, saying that she would make white patients uncomfortable. Fortunately, baby Iva arrives... (full context)
Chapter 5: White Houses
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
...After their return from Europe in the summer of 1924, they moved back in with Gladys’ parents while they saved money for the down payment on a house. Newly elevated by... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
While Ossian and Gladys put away money, enormous shifts occur in the politics of Detroit race relations. Nativist politicians... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
Although Gladys claims no preference for a white neighborhood, police violence and poor living standards put Black... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
The violence scares Gladys and Ossian. But Ossian feels that backing down will mean admitting his failure to live... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...for Black people asserting the “rights of men,” so be it. He gathers his compatriots: Gladys, Otis, Henry and his friend John Latting, Julian Perry, Dr. Carter, William Davis, Joe Mack... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Letter of Your Law
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Gladys strikes a more defiant tone than the men, showing pride in the stand she and... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
...accounts help to explain why County Prosecutor Robert Toms feels it necessary to bring Ossian, Gladys, and their companions to trial. He is a fair and judicious man who has declared... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...and porch appeared after the shots. Otto Lemhagen colorfully adds that he saw a “hard-boiled” Gladys laughing triumphantly as the police stormed in. (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
While Kennedy interviews Garland Avenue neighbors, Ossian, Gladys, and the others sweat in jail. William Davis, a federal narcotics officer—another member of the... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
...gave to Kennedy. The situation continues to deteriorate: a judge denies bail for everyone, including Gladys. And the city is awash with the kinds of rumors that precede race riots. (full context)
Chapter 8: The Prodigal Son
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
A ray of hope reaches the defendants in jail as Gladys makes bond on October 6 and news of Clarence Darrow’s retention arrives the following week.... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...especially where the “authorities fail to protect.” Donations flood into the NAACP. Free on bond, Gladys becomes the defenders’ public face. She enjoys the attention. Ossian receives glowing praise from such... (full context)
Chapter 9: Prejudice
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...Ossian, Henry, and Leonard Morse. Murphy orders them to resume deliberations the following morning as Gladys—the only defendant not awaiting the verdict in jail—sobs on her mother’s shoulder. At 1:30pm on... (full context)
Chapter 10: Judgement Day
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
...resumed meeting and the house has been subject to vandalism. They stay in the apartment Gladys rented in another white neighborhood. Throughout December, Black and progressive newspapers roundly praise Ossian’s “unparalleled... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Ossian and Gladys travel to New York City as the special guests and headlining celebrities of the NAACP’s... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
Ossian and Gladys wait, too; Robert Toms has another big case to try, and the court’s packed schedule... (full context)
Epilogue: Requiescam
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
For Ossian and Gladys, tragedy ruins the news of Henry’s acquittal and the subsequent dropping of charges against the... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
Ossian’s personal life spirals downwards after Gladys’ death; two subsequent marriages end in divorce, and he remains childless. His attempts to run... (full context)