Flying Home and Other Stories is a collection of short stories by Ralph Ellison , published after his death. Todd has worked hard to become an aviator and his efforts are seemingly all the more remarkable because as a black man he has had to contend with the stereotypical and...
Flying Home and Other Stories is a collection of short stories by Ralph Ellison, published after his death. Todd has worked hard to become an aviator and his efforts are seemingly all the more remarkable because as a black man he has had to contend with the stereotypical and racist comments about his future in flying and whether he has the capacity to have a career outside the usual choices.
Having had an accident during his ongoing training Todd knows, on regaining consciousness, what reactions he is likely to receive when others hear that he flew into a buzzard and lost control of the plane. He feels conflicted and disappointed by his own shortcomings. Therefore, he is hardly pleased to see Jefferson, a black sharecropper who has come to help him but who Todd sees initially as nothing more than a "peasant" whom Todd despises because he epitomizes everything that Todd has tried so hard to ignore and remove from his own life. Todd reflects on the humiliation he will have to face when others hear about the crash. Although Todd is a candidate at a flight school with a primarily white culture and his girlfriend has previously warned him about the potential difficulties for a black man who undergoes his training in the South where perceptions still tend toward white superiority, Todd is determined to prove his worth and this accident will just make the bigots believe that he is indeed inferior.
Unfortunately, even Todd has been affected by his surroundings and does feel superior to the masses of good, honest but largely uneducated black people like Jefferson. Todd exists in a world between "the condescending white" and the "ignorant black" and he despises both. Although Jefferson is kind, he is that "old black ignorant man," Todd reasons. Todd can imagine the mocking comments should he go into town with Jefferson and he can find no comfort or solace.
Todd's girlfriend has tried to express her feelings of humiliation in a letter. She suggests that the reason why Todd has not been assigned sufficient flying time is because he is black and for her this offends all black people, not just Todd personally. It also has further meaning, especially for Todd: perhaps the humiliation is in the fact that others think that because Todd is black, he cannot expect or enjoy success. Todd does not want to be associated with other black people who he feels confirm the stereotype. It is therefore humiliating to be thought of as "just" another black man.
Beginning the story with the words "When Todd came to..." allows Ellison to explore Todd's self-discovery and his painful realization that he does not need to become someone else or deny his roots to rise above other people's expectations.