Part 2, Chapter 15 Summary

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Perry and Dick are in a motel room in Mexico City. They are almost completely broke. As Perry predicted, Dick spent most of the money from selling the car on women. Dick tries to get a job but is disgusted that the wages in Mexico are so low. He wants to get bus tickets back to the United States. Although Perry could stay in Mexico alone, he refuses to leave Dick, thinking that somehow things will work out if the two of them are together. He is upset that he must leave most of his possessions behind; they will most likely be hitchhiking a good part of the way.

Perry thinks about a letter from his father to the parole board, entitled “A History of My Boy’s Life,” that explains Perry’s boyhood. His mother decided she wanted to leave for California and separated from her husband and took her children. Mr. Smith worried that she would teach the children to hate him—which they did, with the exception of Perry, who ran away several times to get back to his father. Once Perry was in his father’s custody, he made a name for himself at school by beating up bullies. Mr. Smith defended him because the principal took the side of the bully. As a teenager, Perry joined the Merchant Marines during World War II. He joined the army during the Korean War. On his return, he had a motorcycle accident and suffered severe injuries to his legs, requiring several months of recuperation.

Mr. Smith said that Perry’s interests run to girls until they mistreat him. He had difficulty getting a job because of his legs. His ramblings took him all over the country, but he never stayed in one place for very long. He traveled to Kansas, where he joined up with a partner and robbed a store. They were caught, and Perry was sent to Lansing Prison. His sister, Barbara, wrote to him with news about her children and her life; she is the only one of the children to have stayed out of trouble. She told Perry that she and their father are ashamed of him. She urged him to sincerely regret his crimes; she knew he was intelligent and well-spoken. Perry dismissed Barbara’s advice, especially after his friend Willie-Jay analyzed the letter and saw Barbara as foolish. Willie-Jay urged Perry to keep his relationship with his sister purely social.

Perry tells Dick, who is making love to Inez (one of his “fiancées”) to hurry up because they are supposed to be out of the motel room by two o’clock.

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