Chapter 14 Summary

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Last Updated January 4, 2023.

Returning to Mary’s boarding house, the narrator smelled the cabbage soup that Mary always made when she couldn't afford anything else. Realizing that his unpaid back rent had become a financial burden on his landlady, who was much too kind to bring it up, he decided to take the job after all.

The narrator called Brother Jack, who seemed unsurprised that he had reconsidered his offer of employment. Insisting that he join them at once for an event, Brother Jack picked him up and took him to a grand building in an unfamiliar part of the city. A party was underway, and Brother Jack took the narrator through the crowd, introducing him as someone who had just made great strides for their cause. His reception by the other partygoers was uneven, and some expressed skepticism. After being introduced to one woman, the narrator was troubled to overhear her privately question whether he was “black enough” for the optics of his new job.

As the party continued, the guests conducted an informal interview of the narrator. They asked about his backstory, his intentions, and his opinions on major figures in civil rights and social justice. This was all very new to him, he admitted—he wasn’t entirely sure what he thought. Brother Jack seemed unbothered by this ambiguity, insisting that the narrator start work the next day.

Brother Jack also told the narrator he should plan to move out of Miss Mary’s house, citing fears that the landlady might be too involved in his life for him to maintain operational secrecy. He would be given a new identity, he continued, and a generous salary of sixty dollars per week. Handing him three hundred dollars in cash to settle his immediate debts and get him some new clothes, the Brotherhood promised to find him suitably private lodgings by the morning.

The party became rowdier as the evening went on, and at one point someone implored the narrator to sing an old work spiritual. An argument ensued. The narrator was left feeling uncertain about the dynamics among the group, as well as about the conflicting expectations of Black people in society. He didn’t want to be asked to entertain anybody, but he also wasn’t sure that the asker’s intent should always be seen as malicious.

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Chapter 13 Summary


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