On the eve of the narrator and his family’s departure for the United States after twelve years of residence in Paris, the narrator is being chided by his wife and visiting sister about his nightmares. He is worried about his return to the racist United States after such a long absence and what effect it will have on his multiracial family and his career.
The story is structured around a series of social interactions. The first concerns the narrator’s family and his Paris existence. He puts his son to bed in the concierge’s apartment, and his wife and sister go out on the town. The narrator slips into the first of his reveries on his apartment balcony overlooking the Eiffel Tower as he revisits his first years in Paris as an expatriate and struggling artist. He speculates on the whereabouts of his old North African friends and the conditions of the current Algerian conflict. He is in love with Paris and the French because they do not judge him on skin color, but he deplores their colonial war.
The narrator has an extended flashback about his visit to the United States eight years before for his mother’s funeral. He describes the boat trip on which he sings spirituals and blues for a white audience, and his arrival in New York, where he is called “boy” by a white officer as he descends the gangplank and is engulfed by the “cunning and murderous beast” of New York City.
The flashback ends and the narrator welcomes his...
(The entire section is 479 words.)