That afternoon, after Wharton’s violent entrance into E block, Dean explains that they all thought Wharton was sedated from hospital drugs. Harry agrees, and even Percy grudgingly nods to confirm. Brutal glances at Paul and the two men agree, without words, that the guards will have to use this mistake as a learning experience.
Paul jumps to the moments immediately after Wharton’s arrival, creating suspense by making the reader try to guess what catastrophe has befallen E block. The guards’ mistake was unintentional, but serves as an introduction to the kind of violence that can erupt from mismanagement—a prelude to the later horrors of Delacroix’s death.
Paul jumps back in time to explain what happened. Seven guards are in charge of picking Wharton up from the hospital. Harry, in charge of the operation, tries to get Wharton to put on his prison uniform, but the prisoner—his eyes vacant, his body limp—proves unable to comply, and Dean is forced to help him put on his pants. Throughout the morning, none of the guards ever thought Wharton was merely pretending, waiting for the moment he could cause trouble.
Wharton’s feigned sedation is devious and cunning, demonstrating his intelligence and, more frighteningly, his devotion to the cause of surprising others in horrific ways. The guards, by contrast, innocently believe this is a day like any other—demonstrating once again the way in which cruelty and horror often irrupt into people’s lives by surprise.
The men bring Wharton to the stagecoach. Inside, Wharton continues his act, judging that he wouldn’t be able to cause much trouble in such a small space. During the hour-long drive, Wharton remains quiet, drooling and humming every once in a while. When they arrive at the prison, the extra guards stay in the vehicle and, as they exit the car, only Harry, Dean, and Percy are in charge of the prisoner. In a formation of three—Dean and Harry to the sides, Percy in the back—they march him toward the prison door.
Wharton clearly premeditates his evil deeds, making sure to achieve as horrific an effect as he can. His cruelty is not justified by anything the guards have done to him, but purely motivated by the pleasure of harming and scaring others.
When Dean steps forward to unlock the door, Wharton suddenly comes alive, uttering a shrieking, animal-like cry that Paul, hearing the sound from within the prison, believes to come from a dog. Wharton begins to choke Dean with the chain that hangs between his wrists. While Wharton is screaming and yelling, choking Dean, Harry tries to hit Wharton but does not think of drawing his baton or his pistol. With ferocious strength, Wharton is able to throw Harry away. Harry yells to Percy to do something, but Percy remains dumbstruck, unable to move.
Even though Wharton planned his attack rationally, the moment of the attack takes place as though he were releasing a primitive energy, something that exists deep down in human beings below the veneer of civility. Wharton does not merely mean to scare the guards, but actually intends to kill Dean with his bare hands if he can. His cruelty proves of a particularly dangerous kind, combining strength, intelligence, and animal ferocity.
Drawn by the commotion, Paul runs out of Wharton’s cell, where he was waiting for him, and recognizes in Wharton’s face the look of a mean, stupid animal, intent on doing as much harm as he can. Meanwhile, Dean, his face red, is choking to death. Just as Paul draws his gun, Wharton spins Dean toward it, so that Paul will not be able to shoot at Wharton without hurting Dean as well. With his eyes, Wharton dares Paul to shoot.
Paul is not struck by Wharton’s intelligence but, instead, by his animal-like instincts. Once again, Wharton proves fatally cunning in his desire to harm as many people as he can, wanting Paul to kill his own colleague.