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Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 686

There still remained the dead monstrous heatless disc which hung nightly in the black abyss of the rage and impotence: If he would just be a nigger first, just for one second, one little infinitesimal second.

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Chick Mallison, a white teenager, feels indebted to Lucas Beauchamp, a black man, because Lucas helped him four years before when Chick nearly drowned in a creek. Chick feels deeply uncomfortable being indebted to a black man, and he describes this discomfort as a heavy kind of weight around his neck. Chick tries to pay Lucas back for his help in several ways. Chick even sends Lucas's wife, Molly, an imitation silk dress, but then Lucas sends Chick back some sorghum molasses. It bothers Chick that he has to feel indebted to Lucas, because it erases his superiority to Lucas. He would feel more comfortable if Lucas were in an inferior position to him.

Both suckled at Molly's mother’s breast and grown up together almost inextricably like sisters, like twins, sleeping in the same room, the white girl in the bed, the Negro girl on a cot at the foot of it almost until Molly and Lucas married, and Miss Habersham had stood up the Negro church as godmother to Molly's first child.

Miss Habersham, an older white woman, is the only white person who helps Chick exonerate Lucas by digging up the body of the white victim to prove that Lucas did not kill him. Miss Habersham and Molly, Lucas's now-deceased wife, grew up together. The image of both of them suckling as infants at Molly's mother's breast symbolizes their closeness and the lifelong ties that bind them. The passage is about the way black people and white people grow up together but become separated over time by racism. However, Miss Habersham feels a connection to Molly that lasts even past Molly's death and that motivates her to help Lucas.

So (moving: he had not stopped since the first second’s fraction while he closed the office door) he flung himself bodily with one heave into a kind of deadly reasonableness of enraged calculation, a calm sagacious and desperate rationability not of pros and cons because there were no pros: the reason he was going out there was that somebody had to and nobody else would.

Chick feels motivated to help Lucas, and there is no doubt that he will dig up the victim's grave. He does not even stop to consider the pros and cons of doing so; instead, he is motivated to erase some of the debt he feels to Lucas, and he also believes in...

(The entire section contains 686 words.)

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