Though Malcolm was not quite 16 years old, how could he pass for 21 at this time?What is Malcolm's second job?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Malcolm was mature-looking from an early age.  He hung around with people who were several years his senior, but he "was bigger, and (he) actually looked older than most of them" (Chapter 3).  By the time Malcolm was almost sixteen, he had worked first as a shoeshine boy, and then at a drugstore serving up sodas and shakes.  The job for which he had to pass as twenty-one with the railroad on the kitchen crew was actually Malcolm's third job.

Malcolm was able to pass for twenty-one for because he looked much older than he was, but there was another reason as well.  The United States had just gotten involved in World War II, and the military "was snatching away railroad men so fast" that desperate employers couldn't afford to be terribly scrupulous about checking their applicants' qualifications.  When sixteen-year-old Malcolm went down to the railroad hiring office to see about the job for which a family friend had recommended him, the clerk asked him his age and "never lifted his eyes from his pencil" when he replied that he was twenty-one (Chapter 5).

Read the study guide:
The Autobiography of Malcolm X

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