Chapter 22 Summary and Analysis
Brother Tobitt: the Brotherhood member who leads the attack upon the narrator in this chapter
The narrator goes to the central committee, which is waiting for him. Brother Jack asks about the event, and Brother Tobitt asks why the narrator organized the funeral and the eulogy. The narrator answers reasonably, but emotions escalate immediately.
The committee feels that a traitor such as Clifton did not deserve a hero’s burial. But more than this, the committee will not tolerate any member acting alone, as the narrator did. They act as if they concur with Brother Wrestrum’s earlier accusation that the narrator is acting selfishly, rather than as part of a machine. The maintenance of discipline is their main focus.
The narrator feels that the situation called for immediate action, rather than for board meetings. The community needed to see that the Brotherhood still cared and was still a presence for change. That could only be accomplished by doing what the narrator did. He operated out of consideration of the community.
Other factors come into play, such as who knows more about the people of Harlem. It transpires that Brother Tobitt is married to a black woman.
The conflict is not easily solved. The parties have no interest in appreciating views other than their own. Since the narrator is outnumbered and without power, he is obliged to acquiesce to the committee’s point of view. He is sent to Brother Hambro for further instructions.
This chapter contains more sarcasm than any other chapter. The biting and cruel language exposes what the reader may have suspected all along—the realization that there is not very much brotherhood in the Brotherhood.
Brother Jack opens the conversation with what seems to be quiet good humor, but is actually sarcasm in repose. Brother Tobitt’s method is almost the same. Their techniques are reminiscent of the narrator’s confrontation with Bledsoe in Chapter Six.
The narrator’s moods swing somewhat, but he tries hard to keep control of himself. Many themes appear in this chapter: the individual versus the collective, the definition of a traitor, the question of who best knows the people of Harlem (and from where they derived this knowledge), and whether or not complete discipline and sacrifice are worthwhile goals.
Think of this chapter as a play. Much of its action is given in dialogue.