Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 426
Emma: an attractive woman involved in the Brotherhood; she lives well and hosts Brother Jack and others for a combination business-meeting/party.
Despite some reluctance, the narrator decides to call Brother Jack, who asks the narrator to join him immediately. The narrator meets other members of the Brotherhood, including Emma, the affluent hostess of that evening’s meeting.
The narrator is still suspicious and apprehensive, and the reactions from the party members do not relieve these feelings. They talk in a grand manner, and at first almost seem to disregard the narrator’s presence. They discuss making him into a great speaker, like Booker T. Washington. They have plans to change his life—a new place to live, new clothes, and even a new name, which Emma gives to the narrator for him to memorize.
Before the narrator can get used to such a barrage of information, he is introduced to a crowd having gathered for a party. There are many important people there, all of whom are eager to talk. Also at the party is a drunk man, who loudly asks that the narrator sing a song. This provokes an angry reaction from Brother Jack, and the drunk man is thrown out. The narrator is amused, yet his reactions are conflicting. After staying at the party for a while longer, the narrator goes home to Mary, wondering about the changes ahead of him.
Just as the narrator has shown signs of living a settled life, he becomes involved in a new “adventure.” His speech at the eviction led directly to the Brotherhood, and now he has a new job, around white people who are specifically interested in him and what he can do.
The tense moment regarding the narrator’s singing touches on a major theme in this novel: the difficulty of being true to one’s self when all those around one make assumptions about one’s identity. While it may not be right to assume that all black people enjoy singing, it is also not right to avoid singing merely because people will expect it.
The narrator is frequently worried by the expectations of others. This confuses him and makes him feel ambivalence. The dynamics of the situation with the drunk man are echoed in the narrator’s thoughts, in Chapter Thirteen, about eating fried sweet potato pies. He realizes that it is a waste of time to be concerned with what other people expect him to do or say, yet escaping from these feelings is difficult for him.
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