Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 456
The narrator wakes up on his last morning in Mary’s place. It is a cold morning, and the heat has gone out. Other tenants of the building protest by banging on the pipes, and this enrages the narrator. He grabs a ceramic “piggy bank” shaped like a caricatured black man and smashes it against the pipes. It shatters, and the narrator feels guilty. He resolves to take the mess away with him and throw it out, regardless of the money.
The narrator joins Mary for a brief breakfast. He gives her a hundred-dollar bill, which she nervously accepts. A horde of roaches comes out of the floor, and Mary and the narrator smash them with their feet and a broom. Once on the street, the narrator drops the package in a garbage can, but is instantly commanded to take it back. The woman of the house lectures him on bad manners and will not listen to his reasonable appeals. He soils his arm in retrieving the package. Next he leaves it on the sidewalk, yet a man follows him for two blocks to give it back to him, amid ludicrous accusations that the narrator was trying to plant incriminating evidence of some kind.
The narrator’s mood turns as he buys the clothes that Brother Jack demanded. The narrator sees an article on the eviction protest, which refers to him in passing. After selecting his new clothes, the narrator finds his new address.
This chapter is filled with symbols of the narrator’s change, from Mary’s friend to whatever role the Brotherhood has in store for him. The little home he had with Mary turns from cosy to grimy on his last morning. Not only does everything go wrong, but much of what happens is full of significance.
First of all, the narrator smashes a representation of the old black man, an object he had lived with but never noticed. Next, in the midst of his guilt about abandoning the life he had at Mary’s, the roaches make their appearance.
Upon leaving Mary’s apartment, the narrator has great difficulty in discarding the package of coins and smashed ceramic. Local black people remind him of his burden and refuse to let him hide it from view, as would be convenient for him.
Having made a real life for himself with Mary, the narrator is trying to change into something else. The world sends its little comments on this day, much like certain catastrophes are interpreted as signs of a god’s displeasure. While this may seem an overly dramatic reading, consider all of the odd details of the chapter, in which the narrator is faced with yet another shift in identity.
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