Last Updated January 4, 2023.
The narrator arrived at the college, a beautiful, picturesque campus with old buildings and winding hedge-lined roads. It was peaceful and sprawling, and it made a strong impression on him—even in his secret basement, he notes, he thinks of it wistfully.
The college paid continued veneration to a figure referred to only as “The Founder,” and the school’s existing trustees were predominantly older wealthy white men from the Founder’s era. One day during his junior year, the narrator was asked to drive one of these wealthy white trustees around the campus for a day. The trustee, Mr. Norton, had some unexpected time to fill between meetings, and he asked the narrator to take him to the outskirts of campus. Mr. Norton, too, spoke highly of the Founder, telling the narrator that working toward a favorable future for young Black Americans constituted his life’s highest purpose and his most valuable investment.
The two took a pleasant drive, eventually meandering down a road just outside school property. As they approached a cabin and Mr. Norton inquired about the residents, the narrator realized he had made a terrible mistake. The cabin belonged to Jim Trueblood, a man who had disgraced the Black community by impregnating his own daughter. The narrator tried to change course to keep Mr. Norton from finding out, but the trustee was curious about the cabin and insisted on talking to the women working out front.
As Mr. Norton talked to the women, Jim Trueblood arrived. They talked, and Trueblood explained the scandalous circumstances of his exile from the community. Mr. Norton, visibly shaken by what had happened in the Trueblood household, got back in the car and asked the narrator to find him some whiskey at once.