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Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 520

Here are some quotes from If He Hollers Let Him Go:

I dreamed a fellow asked me if I wanted a dog and I said yeah, I'd like to have a dog and he went off and came back with a little black dog with stiff gold-tipped black hair...

(The entire section contains 520 words.)

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Here are some quotes from If He Hollers Let Him Go:

I dreamed a fellow asked me if I wanted a dog and I said yeah, I'd like to have a dog and he went off and came back with a little black dog with stiff gold-tipped black hair and sad eyes that looked like a wire-haired terrier. (1)

Bob begins his narrative with several dreams he has. The first is of a man who asks if he wants a dog and brings a black wire-haired terrier with a wire around its neck. This dog is symbolic of Bob and the way in which he feels like he is always on a constricting and painful leash.

I was asking two white men for a job. They looked as if they didn't want to give me the job but didn't want to say so outright. Instead they asked me if I had my tools. I said I didn't have any tools but could do the job. They began laughing at me, scornfully and derisively. (2)

In another dream, Bob asks white men for a job, and they laugh at him. Bob feels this scorn and racism at the shipyard where he works, and he feels that he has been stripped of his tools, or his dignity.

Cleveland wasn't the land of the free or the home of the brave either. That's one reason I left there to come to Los Angeles; I knew if I kept on getting refused while white boys were hired from the line behind me I'd hang somebody as sure as hell. (3)

Bob leaves Ohio to work in California; in Ohio, he kept getting turned down for jobs, and he felt the anger building up inside him—anger that could drive him to hurt someone else.

All that tight, crazy feeling of race as thick in the street as gas fumes. Every time I stepped outside I saw a challenge I had to accept or ignore. (4)

The Los Angeles where Bob works and lives during World War II is charged with racism. People feel angry at Japanese people after Pearl Harbor, and this racism is also directed toward Bob and all non-whites.

Now and then, some of the young white women gave me an opening to make a pass, but I'd never made one: at first because the coloured workers seemed as intent on protecting the white women from the coloured men as the white men were. (18)

A theme of this novel is the taboo relationship between white women and black men. Bob explains that black men at his shipyard are also resistant towards any black man having a relationship with a white woman because they want to protect their reputations and prove to whites that they can work with white women without developing relationships with them.

I dare you to, nigger . . . Just go ahead. I'll get you lynched right here in California. (146)

Madge, a white woman who works at the shipyard, is racist and dislikes having Bob as her supervisor. He goes to speak with her, and she challenges him to attack her and threatens him with lynching.

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