Chapter 13 Summary

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Walking in the street one day, the narrator passed a vendor selling baked yams. He bought one and found it so sweet, succulent, and comforting that he was overcome by a sudden and overwhelming wave of homesickness. He finished the yam while he walked, despite eating while walking down the street not being “proper,” and found the experience so uniquely freeing that he ran back to buy two more. Energized by his newfound agency, he ate them both.

As he continued down the street, the narrator encountered a grim scene: an elderly Black couple being evicted by their white landlord. All their belongings were being put out on the sidewalk as the elderly woman begged the landlord’s hired men to leave them alone. A crowd of onlookers surrounded them.

Surveying the personal belongings left on the sidewalk, the narrator became increasingly upset at this injustice. He attempted to help gather some of the strewn belongings, finding a set of free papers from 1859. The papers granted freedom from enslavement to, presumably, one of the couples’ family members, and seeing these triggered an overwhelming sense of dispossession in the narrator.

When the woman shouted that she was going into the house to pray, one of the hired men tried to physically stop her. The crowd erupted with anger, and the narrator sensed impending violence. Climbing the steps, he delivered an extemporaneous speech to the crowd that briefly diffused some of the tension. Despite this, violence eventually broke out among them.

Regaining the crowd’s attention, the narrator called the onlookers to go inside and pray for the couple as a group. Momentum gathered among the galvanized crowd to go inside, and he directed them to carry the couple’s belongings back into the apartment and put their home back together.

Siren blaring, a police officer arrived. Attempting to remain calm, the narrator explained that they were clearing the sidewalk. The officer countered that they were interfering with an eviction and ordered his partner to send in a riot call.

People began to scatter. A young white woman, addressing the narrator as “Brother,” told him he could escape undetected by crossing the roofs of the neighboring buildings. The longer he could stay undetected, she told him, the more effective he would be.

Unsure what the woman meant by this, the narrator took her advice and fled by passing from roof to roof, eventually descending back onto an unfamiliar street corner. Attempting to assimilate into the crowd, he joined a group waiting for the light to change. A man next to him commended him on his persuasive speech, addressing him again as “Brother.”

Confused but intrigued, the narrator agreed to join the man for a cup of coffee. The man reintroduced himself as Brother Jack, explaining that he was part of a social progress organization called the “Brotherhood.” He was somewhat evasive about both himself and the organization’s concrete goals, which the narrator found smug. When Brother Jack offered the narrator a job as the organization’s speaker for the district, he declined.

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Chapter 12 Summary


Chapter 14 Summary