Last Updated on May 17, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 568
Bill Peterson: white boxer who fights Malcolm
Maynard Allen: works for the state welfare agency
Mr. and Mrs. Swerlin: a white couple in charge of the detention home
Lucille Lathrop: white cook-helper who works for the Swerlins
Duane Lathrop: Lucille’s husband
A judge: in charge of Malcolm’s case in Lansing
Mr. and Mrs. Lyons: a West Indian couple whose children attend school with Malcolm
Mr. Ostrowski: Malcolm’s English teacher
Mr. Williams: Malcolm’s history teacher
Ella: Malcolm’s half-sister who lives in Boston
Earl: Malcolm’s half-brother
Mary: Malcolm’s half-sister
Frank: Ella’s second husband
Audrey Slaugh: Malcolm’s classmate
Jimmy Cotton: Malcolm’s classmate
At the age of 13, Malcolm is expelled from school in Lansing, Michigan because of his misbehavior. He is sent to live in a detention home in the neighboring city of Mason. Mr. and Mrs. Swerlin like Malcolm very much. Mrs. Swerlin finds an after-school job for Malcolm in a local restaurant. He achieves academic success in the white junior high school he attends, and participates in several after-school activities. Thanks to his popularity, he is elected class president.
Malcolm’s half-sister from Boston, Ella, visits the Little family. A “leading light” in Boston’s “black society,” Ella invites Malcolm to Boston in the summer of 1940. When he visits Boston, 15-year-old Malcolm is amazed by the bustling black community of Roxbury, where Ella and her husband live.
Upon his return to Mason, Malcolm becomes increasingly dissatisfied and restless, and misses that strong sense of belonging that he experienced in Roxbury. People begin to notice a change in him. His disillusionment with Mason grows after a conversation he has with Mr. Ostrowski. During that conversation, Malcolm told Ostrowski that he aspired to become a lawyer. Despite Malcolm’s academic achievements, Ostrowski advised him against pursuing this profession, saying, “A lawyer—that’s no realistic goal for a nigger.” Rather, Ostrowski suggested that Malcolm become a carpenter.
Malcolm writes to Ella, saying that he would like to come live with her in Boston. As the chapter concludes, Ella receives official custody of Malcolm, and he moves to Boston.
In Mason, Malcolm lives and attends school with white people. He is accepted by them, not as an equal, but—as the chapter’s title asserts—as a “mascot.” The Swerlins refer to black people as “niggers” and continually make derogatory remarks about them. Malcolm asserts, “It just never dawned upon them [the Swerlins]...that I wasn’t a pet, but a human being.”
Throughout the chapter, Malcolm has a sharp eye for detail, and uses similes and metaphors to describe how white people perceive him. He says, “He [a white judge] would look me up and down, his expression approving, like he was examining a fine colt, or a pedigreed pup.”
Malcolm is angry and resentful of white people’s condescending attitudes. Nonetheless, he initially feels helpless in the face of such adversity. Finally, when his teacher attempts to dissuade him from pursuing a career as a lawyer, Malcolm’s emerging self-confidence and maturity enable him to write to Ella, requesting that he come there to live.
Malcolm’s decision to move to Boston is the first major turning point in his life. It represents the first time that he has felt empowered to improve his circumstances. In retrospect, as Malcolm describes the implications of his decision, he says, “No physical move in my life has been more pivotal or profound in its repercussions.”
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