Last Updated on July 30, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 691
For Todd, the protagonist, a lifetime of working to find a place in the world where he's respected and treated well has just crash-landed in a field in Alabama along with his airplane at the beginning of "Flying Home." Todd is a pilot-in-training who crashes after a buzzard runs into the plane; he also blames his own excitement for the crash, saying he was going too high and fast before the plane went into a tailspin.
When he wakes, there are two people looking at him. Jefferson and Teddy, a father and son, are farmers who work the field where he landed. As they try to figure out what happened, Todd thinks,
He watched them warily, his mind traveling back over a painful distance. Jagged scenes, swiftly unfolding as in a movie trailer, reeled through his mind, and he saw himself piloting a tailspinning plane and landing and falling from the cockpit and trying to stand. Then, as in a great silence, he remembered the sound of crunching bone and, now, looking up into the anxious faces of an old Negro man and a boy from where he lay in the same field, the memory sickened him and he wanted to remember no more.
He's worried that he's ruined his life and his chances to fly. More than that, though, he knows that his failure will be seen as a failure for all black people who want to be pilots. He's injured physically and in mental anguish as Jefferson sends Teddy to get help.
As he waits, Todd allows Jefferson to examine the plane. The man seems impressed, and they talk about the reasons why Todd wanted to fly. He wanted to fly because he wanted to separate himself from the way that white men saw black men; he wanted respect and to be seen as equal. This is why it's so important for him to see himself as different than Jefferson at the beginning of the story. Ralph Ellison writes,
"Son, how come you want to fly way up there in the air?"
Because it's the most meaningful act in the world . . . because it makes me less like you, he thought.
Though Todd doesn't say his true feelings out loud to the man, it's clear that flying is one thing that he feels separates him from Jefferson, who is also black and is a sharecropper. He remembers walking through the streets to vote and seeing leaflets warning him that he and other black people needed to stay away from the polls because the KKK wasn't going to allow them to vote. These are the kinds of experiences he...
(The entire section contains 691 words.)
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