Chapter 18 Summary

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One morning, an unstamped envelope appeared in the narrator’s mail at the district office. Opening it, he discovered an anonymous letter warning him that some in the community sought to undermine him for his hubris. Anxious, he asked Brother Tarp if there were any members in the Brotherhood who didn't like him. Brother Tarp reassured him—though he hadn’t always been agreed with, the elder said, he didn’t know anybody who meant him harm.

Brother Tarp told the narrator that he came up north as a fugitive, having been imprisoned unjustly for refusing to cede his land to a white man. Most people, he explained, thought he had rheumatism, but in truth he limped because he had worn a chain on his ankle for so long. When a flood had come and broken the levee, he had escaped and been presumed drowned. He gave the narrator something he described as a good luck charm, and the narrator realized it was a single chain link, cut open with a file and hatchet.

Soothed by the gesture and grateful for Brother Tarp’s kindness, the still-unsettled narrator contemplated who might have sent the letter as he attempted to continue on with his daily work. He met with community members throughout the day, about mostly standard issues, but was dismayed when Brother Wrestrum arrived at his door. He didn’t really know what Brother Wrestrum’s role in the organization was, he notes, except to meddle in the affairs of the other members.

Wrestrum’s eyes settled on the chain link, and he told the narrator that he didn’t think it appropriate to keep such things around the office. It was a symbol of racial division, he insisted. More importantly, he told the narrator, he thought the Brotherhood needed new emblems and flags to differentiate themselves out in the world. Hesitant to agree with him, the narrator said he should bring his idea before the committee.

The phone rang, and a magazine on the other end of the line asked the narrator for an interview. The narrator declined, telling the editor he was simply one small part of a much more important whole, but the editor insisted, and the narrator eventually consented.

Later, at a meeting, Brother Jack reported that Brother Wrestrum had made some charges against the narrator that needed to be addressed by the group. Wrestrum, citing the magazine article, told the group that the narrator was an opportunist trying to elevate his own profile. The narrator argued that he had simply given the editor information about the Brotherhood, not about himself, but the group asked that he leave the room while they discussed the accusations.

After some deliberation, they offered the narrator two options: he could take a hiatus, or he could accept an alternate assignment downtown while the Brotherhood deliberated. He accepted the alternate assignment, learning that he would now be lecturing on the “Woman Question.”

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Chapter 17 Summary


Chapter 19 Summary