In Somewhere in the Darkness, Walter Dean Myers writes an unsentimental, realistic story of the obstacles that thwart understanding between people, even two people seemingly as close as father and son. Both Jimmy and Crab enter the relationship warily, but at the same time with a hope that lies just below the surface of doubt and suspicion. Jimmy wants to know his father but at the same time cannot automatically trust a man he has never known. He wants to reach out to Crab in the older man’s pain and need, but he cannot fully believe in a man who claims to want to clear his name of the crime for which he has been convicted and yet who funds his quest through car theft and credit card fraud.
Both men have needs, and often in the novel those needs are selfish. Crab admits that he wants Jimmy to come with him because Crab needs to have resolution before his death. Jimmy feels physically ill as he leaves Mama Jean’s sheltering love, but, at the same time, he also needs to know what it means to have a father and to be a man. The younger man and the older man circle each other for most of the novel, until a final confrontation occurs at the dramatic climax of the work when the police are closing in to capture Crab. Crab reaches out to Jimmy for acceptance as his father, but Jimmy is not able to accept Crab’s selfishness, his failure as a father, and his false conception of what it means to be tough in a hostile world. Jimmy looks to Crab for...
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Somewhere in the Darkness contributes to Walter Dean Myers’ growing reputation as a novelist particularly attuned to the complexities of the relationships among young men and within families. Several of Myers’ works explore the African American experience, but the overriding issues in the novels concern the complexities of growing up and coming to terms with how one lives responsibly in a dangerous and uncertain world. Myers comes to no easy resolutions.
Myers’ novels feature young men from a variety of racial backgrounds and ages. For example, in one of his best-known novels, Scorpions (1988), he explores the friendship between two twelve-year-olds, one African American and the other Puerto Rican, both of whom must make difficult choices about gangs, drugs, and violence. Another well-known novel, Fallen Angels (1988), takes a seventeen-year-old boy out of Harlem to Vietnam, where he copes with the dangers of war and issues of bigotry and interracial tension. Myers’ young men must make increasingly difficult choices in a world full of danger and ambiguity. These novels are psychologically stark, but certainly not hopeless, landscapes.