Looking for Mr. Green Summary

Saul Bellow

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Looking for Mr. Green” recounts the efforts of George Grebe to deliver relief checks to handicapped residents of the South Side of Chicago. Grebe, thirty-five and an instructor of classical languages, has been reduced by the hard times of the Depression to taking a series of trivial, part-time jobs until an old schoolmate secures for him a position at the relief office. Grebe’s desire to do well at his new job is hampered by its peculiar difficulty: “He could find the streets and numbers, but the clients were not where they were supposed to be.” Grebe is particularly frustrated by his inability to find Mr. Tulliver Green but persists in his search long after quitting time. As the story develops, Grebe’s quest to find Mr. Green becomes a symbolic quest to find his own identity.

Grebe systematically questions a local grocer, the janitor, and several tenants of Mr. Green’s building. Their responses are hostile and evasive. Grebe is viewed “as an emissary from hostile appearances” because he is not yet a familiar face in the territory and because he is white. Although Grebe himself has known hardship, he is out of place in this rundown district of the city, where he is shocked by the distrust of the people and the blighted physical setting.

Before Grebe continues his hunt, he recalls his first meeting with his supervisor, Mr. Raynor. Their conversation establishes somewhat of a kinship between them. Both are well educated and speak foreign languages, and they exchange a few Latin phrases. Their views on the nature of reality, however, establish that they are indeed from different worlds. Although Grebe treats the problem of appearance and reality philosophically, Raynor’s reality comes down to money, “even...

(The entire section is 715 words.)