Why is it significant that the town is named Greenwood?

The name of the narrator's home town, Greenwood, is significant because green wood is new wood that is not very useful. At this early point in the novel, the green wood represents the narrator, who is not yet hardened to life's realities.

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As the narrator is undergoing his humiliating ordeal in chapter 1, he is described as coming from Greenwood:

I'm told that he is the smartest boy we've got out there in Greenwood. I'm told that he knows more big words than a pocket-sized dictionary.

The name of Greenwood is significant...

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As the narrator is undergoing his humiliating ordeal in chapter 1, he is described as coming from Greenwood:

I'm told that he is the smartest boy we've got out there in Greenwood. I'm told that he knows more big words than a pocket-sized dictionary.

The name of Greenwood is significant because green wood is new wood, wood that has not aged or mellowed so that it can burn well. The town name symbolizes the narrator, who is still young or green: he doesn't yet understand the nature of his life as a Black man, though he is getting a rapid education in the reality of racism at this event.

The narrator has been smart enough to earn a scholarship to a Black college and to be asked to give the speech at the evening event. He does know big words, but he has yet to collect a real education in the school of hard knocks. This gap between his intellectual ability and his knowledge of the world will hurt him at the college as well. As he is being expelled, the college president, Dr. Bledsoe, will berate him for not have the street smarts to lie to an important white donor, explaining that this is why he is being kicked out.

By the end of this evening, however, the young narrator has begun to harden just a bit into older wood, as is revealed in the dream he has that night.

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