What is Chapter 15 about in the book Flight to Canada by Ishmael Reed?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Chapter 15 is about the meeting of Quickskill and Carpenter and the later meeting of Quickskill and Quaw Quaw. He and Carpenter talk about Carpenter's upcoming flight to Toronto, Canada, where Quickskill expects to join him soon. He and Quaw Quaw talk about who she does "frontier" dances for and about whether slavery is "a state of mind, metaphysical." She and Quickskill reignite their old love affair whenever they can. The chapter fades to the sounds coming over the television set of a new play being performed at the Ford Theatre, with Lincoln and Mary Todd in attendance.

Chapter 15 opens with Carpenter greeting Quickskill at the party being thrown. Carpenter talks excitedly about his upcoming trip to Toronto, Canada, where he has a reservation at the King Edward Hotel, a "Gracious Tradition," where he will order a room service breakfast with three breakfast meats: "bacon, sausage, ham."

Quickskill promises Carpenter that he will join him in Canada as soon as he gets his check from the magazine paying for his latest poem, "Flight to Canada." Carpenter asks Quicksilver to read a poem he wrote and to introduce him to "one of them big-time editors." Quickskill puts him off. Carpenter responds graciously with "There's plenty of time."

Quickskill muses about the air of condescension "those free slaves" (Carpenter) take toward fugitive slaves (Quickskill). He contemplates how "slavemasters in Louisiana often freed their sons by African women." Some of these freed sons joined the anti-slavery lecture tour, telling tales supposedly their own but borrowed from "real sufferers."

Quickskill brought "some Paul Lawrence Dunbar cuisine" to the pot-luck party featuring slave food. The party guests were dancing in animated styles, with "local Native American poets" drinking Coke. Quickskill notices the "Abolitionist principal of the Free High School" where "some of the slave children" students had become "surly and unmanageable," thinking of themselves as the people of the "future," as a result of her indoctrination.

Princess QuawQuaw Tralaralara enters. She is a "frontier dancer," a Native American with a "desperado" personality and an ability with native dances, who backs up poets' poetry readings with Native American dance. Quaw Quaw recognizes Quickskill. She walks toward him with "hips moving like those of a woman who swims fifty laps a day"; they rekindle their old love affair.

Quickskill takes a tour of the slave castle, where his ancestors had been chained and "rotted." The tour cost a penny. He got separated form the group and found himself upstairs, entering a room where he finds Quaw Quaw on a spacious bed, reading poetry. They rekindle their love affair, which they do a lot, but turn cool to each other when they have "an argument about the Kansas-Nebraska Act." She says that "slavery was a state of mind, metaphysical. He told her to shut" up.

Quaw Quaw defends herself and attacks Quickskill by saying, "You're just not broad enough, Quickskill. You're...you're too...too ethnic. You should be more universal." Quickskill responds, "How can I be universal with a steel collar around my neck and my hands cuffed all the time and my feet bound? I can't be universal bound." He talks with praise about "Abe the Illinois Ape" and about how he's "standing up to them" and that the "South can't continue Camelot."

Watching Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd at the Ford Theatre, Lincoln waving back to the cheering audience, Quaw Quaw breaks in by calling Lincoln that "hick," then talking about how her "professors at Columbia talk about him" and his "Corn belt accent" and stovepipe hat. She wants to go back to her Columbia professors and join in their tea parties. Quickskill insults her professors' poems for sounding like "a summer home on Long Island, about three o'clock in the morning." Quaw denounces all his "race talk all the time."

Quickskill returns to the idea of the fall of Camelot: "Camelot. Camelot West, Camelot East, Camelot South," and denounces Quaw Quaw's pirate husband for his treatment of a swami from India. They sink back on the sofa in another embrace as "Tom Taylor's new play was about to begin" over the television; she had been "between him and the television set." Some of Tom Taylor's uninspired play forms the background ambience:

ASA: There was no soft soap.
DE B: Soft soap!
AUG: Soft soap!
VER: Soft soap!
Mrs. M: Soft soap!
FLO: Soft soap!
GEO (on sofa): Soft soap!
DUN: Throft Thoap?
ASA: Yes, soft soap. ... I'm everlastingly dry.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial