Michael Thomas's Man Gone Down is about a man who is definitely on his way down, but he does not go down without a fight. The unnamed narrator is on a mission, which he accomplishes at least partially. By the end of the novel, though, it is not certain if he will complete it. But neither is it certain that he will fail.

Following this man's story, which covers the course of four days, readers learn that the unnamed narrator reacts to the world as if he exists somewhere else, somewhere between his inner and outer realities. His thoughts fill this story more so than his actions. He is so absorbed in his thoughts that he often forgets to eat and sleep, which might account for his somewhat zombie-like motions. Two thoughts that he often repeats are that he loves his wife, Claire, and he fears he is too badly damaged. The love is apparent. He looks to Claire for solace.  She is his base, his emotional support. Where he lacks courage, Claire is confident. When he is depressed, Claire remains hopeful. His thoughts are heavy. Hers are deep but light. The damage that he fears, although his circumstances give reasons for it, appears to be in questionable, even in his own mind. He worries about it, but he also questions if he is truly damaged. Sometimes he uses his supposed damage as an excuse for not doing what he either wants to do or thinks he should do.

The narrator is a very talented man. But his talents are often overshadowed by his doubts and fears.  He is a proud man.  But his pride often trips him up. He refuses gifts of food when he is hungry.  He refuses jobs when he needs the money. He even comes close to refusing his wife's love and moral support, but it is not clear at the conclusion of the novel if he actually does so. Readers must draw their own conclusions.  Does the narrator say good-bye to his wife and children?  Or does he realize that they are the only things he has that are worth living for?  Does he finally acknowledge that he is worthy of them?

The man of this story definitely goes down. The question that remains is this: Will he get up and try again?

Man Gone Down Extended Summary

Part I: The Loser

Man Gone Down has a thin plotline. Not much happens over the course of four days, but much is discussed, mostly through the narrator's inner monologue. The narrator is a meditative man who is not given a name and spends most of this first part of the novel analyzing and reflecting on his life. The narrator is of mixed race, a fact that he continually makes reference to and believes has had a great influence on his life. He has often felt like a social experiment, bringing together the different worlds of blacks, whites, and Native Americans and has not found peace inside of himself. He has attended mostly white schools. His closest friends are from high school: two are white; one is black. Other men he deals with often call him "chief," a derogatory reference to his Native American heritage.

The narrator is in trouble throughout much of the story, both in the present time of early twenty-first century and in the stories he recounts from his past. In the past, the narrator suffered through family abuse, social prejudice, and alcoholism. In the present time, he needs money and has no job. He is married to Claire, a white woman, and the couple has three children. He is a writer but has also been a teacher and a construction worker. His writing brings in no money, but it is what he wants most to focus on. His immediate needs include $12,000 to pay the fall tuition for his sons' private-school education; and another sizeable amount to put a deposit down on an apartment big enough for his family. In addition to these costs, he needs money to buy food and clothes.

Claire, who does not work, has left him temporarily. She has gone to spend the summer at her mother's beachside house in Massachusetts. The couple's children—two sons and a daughter—have gone with her. Every once in a while, Claire calls her husband to ask him if he has come up with a plan. He tells her "yes," though he is uncertain and sometimes baffled how he is going to come up with the money.

While his wife is on the beach, the narrator lives with his friend Marco, a well-to-do New York lawyer. They watch baseball together at night, but there is very little else that the two of them share. The narrator is sleeping in Marco's son's bedroom, while the boy and Marco's wife are away for the summer. Marco, understanding the narrator's stress, at least on the surface, offers food, but the narrator refuses it. He does, however, sneak money out of Marco's cup full of change to pay for his morning coffee.

In the course of the narration, readers learn of the narrator's violent past. His father abandoned the family when the narrator was young. His mother beat him. The narrator spent much of his teen years drunk.

Part II: Big Nig

The narrator finds a temporary construction job. He has worked in construction before and prides himself on the tools he has purchased over the years. He is a master craftsman. The man who gives him the job, Johnny Little Nancyboy, appreciates the narrator's skills but is surprised to see him again. A few years prior, the narrator had worked with Johnny and had quit to take a college teaching job. The narrator does not provide any explanation as to why he is no longer...

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