Last Updated on May 17, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 771
The Forty Thieves: a group of men who steal clothing from stores to resell at one-third of the store’s prices
The Four Horsemen: a group of crooked black policemen who patrol Harlem’s Sugar Hill neighborhood
Brisbane: a West Indian policeman who is one of The Four Horsemen
“Cadillac” Drake: a Harlem pimp
Sammy the Pimp: a pimp and best friend of Malcolm
“Alabama Peach”: a white prostitute who works for Sammy
“Dollarbill”: a Harlem pimp
“Fewclothes”: a former pickpocket and regular customer at Small’s Paradise
“Jumpsteady”: a burglar and regular customer at Small’s Paradise
Creole Bill: Malcolm’s friend, who converts his apartment into a speakeasy
“Brown Sugar”: Creole Bill’s girlfriend
“St. Louis Red”: a professional armed robber whom Malcolm once worked with
“Chicago Red”: a funny dishwasher; later he will become famous as Redd Foxx
Billie Holiday: the famous black jazz singer
Spanish Negro Woman: Sammy’s girlfriend
White lesbian and her girlfriend: friends of Malcolm
Joe Baker: a West Indian plainclothes New York City detective
Gladys Hampton: wife of famed musician, Lionel Hampton
Frank Schiffman: owner of the Apollo Theater
West Indian Archie: a numbers runner in Harlem
Hymie: a Jewish restaurant owner whom Malcolm works for
Jean Parks: a former singer and friend of Malcolm
In Chapters 6 and 7, Malcolm describes his Harlem lifestyle in great detail. Nicknamed “Detroit Red,” he supports himself by working in Small’s Paradise, and engages in such extracurricular activities as gambling, hustling, and using drugs. He lives amongst prostitutes and drug users, and befriends pimps. Although she has gotten married, Sophia continues visiting Malcolm. One day, while at work, he is arrested by the police for giving an undercover cop the telephone number of a prostitute. Although he is freed by the police for lack of evidence, he loses his waiter job and, with the help of Sammy the Pimp, begins peddling marijuana.
He visits Ella, Sophia, and Shorty in Boston. Shorty now has his own band and is playing in small clubs.
White narcotics detectives start harassing Malcolm, so he gets an automatic pistol for protection. As a result of his continued paranoia about being followed by the detectives, he begins to commute on railroad lines, selling marijuana to traveling musicians.
Upon his return to Harlem, he receives a draft notice. When he reports to the army induction center, he pretends to be psychotic by threatening to kill white soldiers. He manages to outwit the army psychiatrists and is rejected by the Army.
Malcolm’s younger brother, Reginald, who joined the merchant marines, begins visiting Malcolm. Malcolm introduces him to the exciting musical world of New York, and to such music legends as Billie Holiday and Lionel Hampton. Reginald starts dating a black waitress, who completely pampers him. He and Malcolm become close friends.
Meanwhile, racial tension in Harlem is steadily increasing. Thus, when word gets out that white policemen have shot a black soldier in a Harlem hotel, angry Harlem residents riot and loot neighborhood businesses. After the riot, white people are more fearful and stop visiting Harlem. Consequently, Harlem’s hustlers and prostitutes, whose main source of income was white people’s money, are forced to find legitimate work.
In 1945, Malcolm begins committing armed robberies with Sammy the Pimp. When Malcolm becomes a numbers runner and pimp, he ventures outside of Harlem. Soon, he gets a job working for Hymie, transporting bootleg liquor from Long Island to New York bars. Hymie mysteriously disappears after a rumor spreads that he is a government informant.
As Chapter 7 concludes, Malcolm’s own life has been threatened. He expresses his deep gratitude to God for having helped him survive this decadent life of crime.
The reader is overwhelmed by Malcolm’s detailed and compelling account of his drug use, pimping, hustling, and armed robbery activities. The use of similes and metaphors helps one easily visualize the people and events. When Malcolm describes the pimp, “Cadillac” Drake, he notes, “He was shiny bald-headed, built like a football.”
Interestingly, it is during this period in his life that Malcolm develops an obsession with going to the movies. The reader can conjecture that movies are Malcolm’s only means of escape from his depraved existence.
Feeling frustrated and trapped by his circumstances, Malcolm uses animal imagery to describe himself. He says, “When you become an animal, a vulture, in the ghetto, as I had become, you enter a world of animals and vultures. It becomes truly survival of only the fittest.” The reader strongly empathizes with Malcolm as he compares himself to a vulture. Malcolm’s sense of extreme degradation and helplessness is a recurring theme during this period of his life.
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