Last Updated on May 17, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 783
Sophia’s 17-year-old sister: dates Shorty
John Hughes: owns a gambling house in Boston
Rudy: a friend of Shorty’s and a member of Malcolm’s burglary ring
Sophia’s husband: goes looking for Malcolm when he finds out Sophia has been seeing him
Sophia’s husband’s friend: takes Sophia and her sister out to dinner
Detective Slack: police detective investigating Malcolm
Detective Turner: police detective investigating Malcolm
Malcolm moves back to Boston after West Indian Archie, who wrongfully believes Malcolm has stolen money from him, threatens to kill him. Malcolm lives with his longtime friend, Shorty, and continues his reckless drug use and gambling. Ella is shocked by Malcolm’s corrupt behavior. Shorty begins dating Sophia’s 17-year-old sister, who remains unnamed throughout the autobiography.
Malcolm organizes a burglary ring with Shorty, Sophia, Sophia’s sister, and Rudy. The two women are used to scout out wealthy white neighborhoods, Malcolm and Shorty rob houses, and Rudy serves as the driver of the getaway car. They find a fence who purchases and resells the stolen articles. The burglary ring is successful for nearly one year.
One day, however, Malcolm goes to a jewelry shop to pick up a stolen watch that he had brought in for repair. He had decided to keep this expensive watch for himself and, unbeknownst to him, local jewelers have been on the lookout for stolen merchandise. Malcolm is arrested. Shorty and the two women are also arrested; Rudy manages to escape.
The racist social workers and the court-appointed lawyer assigned to the case think that Malcolm and Shorty have committed a gravely serious offense. To them, the crime of robbery was secondary; Malcolm and his companions have committed a more serious crime. As Malcolm explains, “Nobody wanted to know anything at all about the robberies. All they could see was that we had taken the white man’s woman.”
Malcolm continues to use many stylistic devices to describe his moral and physical decline. He reminisces, “Looking back, I think I really was at least slightly out of my mind. I viewed narcotics as most people regard food. I wore my guns as today I wear my neckties. Deep down, I actually believed that after living as fully as humanly possible, one should then die violently....I think I deliberately invited death in many, sometimes insane ways.” The reader notes that here is one of several occasions in the autobiography where Malcolm, quite prophetically, predicts his own death.
Later on, after challenging Detective Turner to a gunfight in a bar, Malcolm writes, “I had gotten to the point where I was walking on my own coffin.” The reader is both horrified and profoundly moved by his gripping, fatalistic attitude about his life.
It has always been extremely important to Malcolm to gain the respect and admiration of the people around him. As a result, when the members of his burglary ring meet for the first time, Malcolm is compelled to act (seemingly) recklessly by playing a game of Russian roulette. He falsely appears to place his own life in jeopardy. (In the Autobiography’s Epilogue, Alex Haley writes that Malcolm admitted to him that this action was a ruse. Malcolm’s gun actually contained no bullets when he put the muzzle to his head and pulled the trigger!) Not only does Malcolm gain their utmost respect, but, he concludes, “They thought I was crazy. They were afraid of me.”
Malcolm continues to enjoy deceiving white people. He admits, “I knew that the white man is rare who will ever consider that a Negro can outsmart him.” On one occasion, when he and the other members of his burglary ring are driving away from a heist, they spot a police car following them. To allay any suspicions that the police officers may have, Malcolm gets out of the car, flags the officers down, and proceeds to ask them directions. The officers give him directions and drive away, without the slightest misgivings.
At the conclusion of Chapter 9, Malcolm explains his reasons for writing his autobiography. He says, “To understand ... any person, his whole life, from birth, must be reviewed. All of our experiences fuse into our personality. Everything that happened to us is an ingredient ... the full story is the best way that I know to have it seen, and understood, that I had sunk to the very bottom of the American white man’s society when—soon now, in prison—I found Allah and the religion of Islam and it completely transformed my life.”
The reader recognizes that Malcolm’s “nightmare,” which began in early childhood and continued into his teenage and early adult years, has ended; redemption and salvation are forthcoming.
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