Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Chester Himes recounts in his autobiography The Quality of Hurt the four years that he spent in Los Angeles during World War II. Discuss the parallels between his life there and Bob Jones’s life in If He Hollers Let Him Go.

Himes considered himself a radical African American writer. What elements of radicalism can be found in his detective novels?

Discuss changes in literary style, character development, and societal attitudes in Himes’s novels once he had lived for a while in Europe.

Himes wrote many short stories. Speculate on why he has received little recognition as a short-story writer.

Why do critics consider Cotton Comes to Harlem the best of Himes’s detective stories?

Which of Himes’s novels are the most humorous? To whom or what is the humor directed? What literary purpose does the humor serve?