Chapter 29: Summary and Analysis
Red Leg: a member of the Black underground and a visitor to the Clidell home
This chapter describes the new life with Mother and Daddy Clidell. The boarders in Daddy Clidell’s house are presented briefly to the reader as characters who do not speak. Daddy Clidell is exposed to the reader in more detail in this chapter. Through Marguerite’s description Clidell Jackson emerges as a real person who brings the Black underground into the big house. Mr. Red Leg, a member of the Black underground, is one visitor to the home who is very kind to Marguerite. Marguerite relates a story he tells her about outwitting a white man.
The prejudice that is obvious in Chapter 29 is that of Blacks against whites. Marguerite hears many stories from the Black underground. In the tales, “the Black man . . . won out every time over the powerful, arrogant white.” The individual characters themselves are symbols of the entire Black underground and the white race; the triumph of a Black character over a greedy white person is symbolic of the underground’s longed-for triumph over their white oppressors.
When Marguerite learns of Vivian’s relationship with Mr. Clidell, she prepares herself to “accept Daddy Clidell as one more faceless name added to Mother’s roster of conquests.” She finds, however, that “his character beckoned and elicited admiration.”
A maturing Marguerite helps the reader to meet a part of society in San Francisco that one might never meet again: the Black underground of the 1940s in San Francisco. Through the stories of Mr. Red Leg in the 1940s the reader senses the California caste system which pits Blacks against whites.