Killers of the Flower Moon

by

David Grann

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Killers of the Flower Moon: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Though Leavenworth is a violent and difficult place which houses many ghosts of White’s past—Hale and Ramsey, but also the men who murdered his brother Dudley and many other recognizable, notorious outlaws—White truly believes in improving conditions in the prison, treating all of his prisoners with fairness, and making serious efforts to rehabilitate incarcerated men.
White is a good man whose desire to see justice done isn’t satisfied by one small victory.
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Over the years, Hale never admits to orchestrating any of the murders. White orders a neurological and psychological examination of Hale which finds that he has “extremely vicious components in his make-up” but no psychosis. Over the years, Hale continues to try and bribe and scheme his way out of prison, confident that “through influence of friends” he will be able to walk free one day.
Even though Hale has been imprisoned for his crimes, he still refuses to own up to them, and attempts to both deny his involvement in the Reign of Terror and leverage his network of corrupt lackeys.
Themes
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American Entitlement, Greed, and Corruption Theme Icon
Mollie Burkhart, no longer suffering from medical maladies, returns to social life and church. She falls in love with a part Creek man named John Cobb, and, in 1928, marries him. In April of 1931, a court rules that Mollie is no longer a ward of the state—“restored to competency” at the age of 44, Mollie is at last able to spend her own money as she pleases.
Though this is something like a happy ending for Mollie, the fact remains that it took so much pain, trauma, and grief just for her to be recognized as a “competent” woman with agency.
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Related Quotes
On December 11, 1931, an attempted breakout by two members of the notorious Al Spencer Gang pulls Tom White into the crossfire. The two prisoners take him hostage as they make their escape from Leavenworth, and then attempt to take two more, a boy and a girl from the neighboring town. When White tries to stop the men, they shoot him in the arm, missing his torso and face, and leave him for dead.
White has always known that his profession was a dangerous one—now, he comes face to face with the kind of criminals he has spent his whole life trying to understand, reform, and show fairness to.
Themes
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A decade later, in December of 1939, Tom White is working at La Tuna prison in El Paso Texas and is nearly sixty years old. He gives an interview to a newspaper reporter and details the shooting—none of the convicts, in the end, managed to get away. Desiring a more stable, less-dangerous environment, White transferred to La Tuna shortly after he was released from the hospital.
White’s brush with death did not shake him from his desire to work in law enforcement and to continue seeking truth, justice, and reform.
Themes
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A series of high-profile crimes in the 1930s which fall under the jurisdiction of Hoover’s bureau further establish its legitimacy, and soon agents are empowered to make arrest and carry firearms. The bureau is renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and, over the years, as U.S. presidents come and go, Hoover remains firmly in charge of the institution he himself built up.
Hoover has succeeded in his goal of obtaining an almost unassailable kind of power. He remains in control even as the most powerful men in the country come and go, firmly in charge of the empire he has built. 
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By the late 1950s, the Osage case has all but faded from public memory, eclipsed by more high-profile crimes such as the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby and John Dillinger’s bank robberies. In the late 1950s, White fears that the Osage’s suffering—and his and his fellow agents’ toil on their behalf—will be erased from history forever. White, with the help of a part-Osage Western writer named Fred Grove, begins writing his and his team’s story, and, in the late fifties, contacts Hoover to ask him to write an introduction. Hoover, through the associate director of the bureau (and his rumored lover, Clyde Tolson) declines White’s request. White continues working on the book with Grove even as his health fails him, but publishers find the account “less than captivating,” and it is never published.
As White does all he can to tell the Osages’ story to the world, Hoover actively tries to keep White’s requests for help at bay. Meanwhile, publishers seek to do exactly what White’s story warns against: profit off the Osage. When they decide that the story is not financially viable, they lose interest—showing how even artistic institutions are subject to the corruption and greed which White’s very tale tries to indict.
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American Entitlement, Greed, and Corruption Theme Icon
History, Truth, and Lies Theme Icon
In December of 1971, White dies, and his story and memory fade from history. It is not until years later, when the bureau releases several of its files on the Osage investigation, that another layer to the case is discovered—a “darker, even more terrifying conspiracy,” which White himself had missed and the bureau had never before exposed.
White struggled to keep the truth alive, and to pass on his memories to a younger generation—but no one paid attention, and many were even in a hurry to forget the Reign of Terror and let history begin to wash it away.
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History, Truth, and Lies Theme Icon