At first glance, William Hale appears to embody classic American ideals. Through hard work and determination, he raises himself from poverty to prominence. Despite a major setback in his early adulthood, when his first business venture fails, he persists and prevails. He sheds his rougher manners, marries a schoolteacher, and has a daughter who is devoted to him. Hale is generous with his family, lending a helping hand to his nephews, Ernest and Bryan, and supporting the Osage people. There is no sense that he views his Native American neighbors through the racist lens that was common in the early twentieth century. When Anna Brown is murdered, Hale not only promises to help Mollie solve the crime but hires private detectives to investigate.  

This façade masks the full truth, however. As becomes clear across the second section of the book, Hale oversees a vast conspiracy that is organized to defraud the Osage of their wealth through theft, manipulation, and murder. Hale makes arrangements with a local bootlegger to poison liquor, which is said to be one of his preferred means of having people killed. He orders the death of Anna Brown, with whom he may have been having an affair. Hale systematically seeks out someone to blow up the home of Rita and Bill Smith. Henry Roan says that Hale is his best friend, yet Hale carefully plots to kill Roan and to profit from his death. Duplicitous and cruel, Hale shows how easy it is for determination to transform into something much darker. It is not an exaggeration to say that he is evil. Interestingly, Hale does he fully seem to recognize this aspect of his character. From jail, he writes that he is a great friend to the Osage, an obvious falsehood. 

Hale is sometimes called the “King” of Osage County, a moniker that reveals one final important trait of his self-aggrandizing character:he has no real commitment to democratic principles. When he is arrested, Hale is haughty and confident. Because of his vast web of personal influence, he is sure that he will not be convicted. When his first trial results in a hung jury, this seems to be true. His influence even reaches to the U.S. Senate, when the Senator William Pine of Oklahoma pressures the Bureau of Investigation to fire White and his team, falsely accused of torturing the accused during their interrogations. Hale is genuinely surprised when he is found guilty, as jurors prove unable to ignore Ernest’s confession. But this does not mean that his reach is fully extinguished, as the final section of Killers of the Flower Moon makes clear. Hale might have been punished for all of his crimes, but the Osage still feel the painful, lingering effects of his actions. Indeed, at the tribal museum, Hale has been cut out of a picture from the era. He stood in the center of the image, and they have removed him because he is, for them, a true manifestation of evil.