In Somewhere in the Darkness, what does High John mean when he says, "There's a veil and a cloud?"

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Walter Dean Myers deals with powerful topics of family and honesty in his 1992 novel Somewhere in the Darkness. Jimmy, who is sort-of-kidnapped by his fugitive father Crab in an attempt to reconcile, is suspicious and scared, and during their trip to Chicago, they visit a "conjure man" named High John. In response to a question by Crab, High John says:

"When you come from as far away as you done come from you already got the answers. There's a veil and a cloud. Sometimes a child is born with a veil over its eyes and it can see the other side. Sometimes a man grows a cloud over his eyes and can't see the work of his own hand, or the truth in his own heart."
(Myers, Somewhere in the Darkness)

A "veil over the eyes" is a common metaphor for blindness, and it is possible that High John is blind, which would allow him to focus his other senses and give him power to "see the other side." It also refers directly to Jimmy, who has a "veil" of common prejudice against his father over his eyes; he is unable yet to "see the other [Crab's] side" of the story.

The "cloud over the eyes" is directed at Crab, who is trying to regain his good name; Crab wants to prove his innocence to Jimmy and reconnect with him, but he is doing so by kidnapping him and taking him across the country, stealing as he does so. The "cloud" of the murder -- which Crab did not commit -- is blinding him to the smaller crimes that are tainting him in his son's eyes. To Crab, he is doing nothing worse than what his son already believes, but he doesn't realize that he can adversely affect Jimmy's opinion.


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