Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 556

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Big Halley: a bartender at the Golden Day

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Sylvester: a mental patient and a patron of the Golden Day

Supercargo: the attendant/warden at the Golden Day

The vet: a strange little man who tends to Mr. Norton’s condition upstairs; the talk that the two of them have puts the vet in a vulnerable position

Edna: a prostitute at the Golden Day; she shows great interest in spending more time with Mr. Norton

The car arrives at the Golden Day, a bar and whorehouse. Mr. Norton requires “a stimulant,” in the form of alcohol, to overcome the shock of Jim Trueblood’s story. Mr. Norton’s condition is unknown, but his aristocratic constitution implies a certain delicacy.

The stumbling men in front of the car are the veterans and mental incompetents that make the Golden Day a rowdy place. The narrator knows that this was not a good place to bring Mr. Norton, but going to town would have taken too long.

The narrator tries to get Halley, the bartender, to give him a drink for Mr. Norton. When Halley refuses, the narrator goes out to the car and finds that Mr. Norton has fainted. Sylvester and another man help bring Mr. Norton inside. Someone slaps Mr. Norton across the face to revive him, and a drink is administered.

Just after Mr. Norton awakens, Supercargo enters the scene. Being the attendant in charge of these men, he is accustomed to being in command. Now, however, everyone is affected by alcohol, and Supercargo’s threatening presence so angers the men that they attack him.

Supercargo is overcome and severely beaten. It is soon clear that Mr. Norton would be safer upstairs. Once there, the vet continues treating Mr. Norton, and the three of them engage in a long conversation, which continues until the narrator’s and Mr. Norton’s angery departure.

Whether or not he intends to, the narrator continues to do what he did in the previous chapter—to confront Mr. Norton with the day-to-day realities of black life in the South. He has brought Mr. Norton to two places that those in the college react to with embarrassment and anger.

While the chaos in this chapter is as intense as the battle royal in Chapter One, the reasons behind it are different. The Golden Day has its own strange sense of logic; the men do not have to deal with white people, and their “craziness” keeps them out of trouble. The situation with Supercargo, however, angers them. They say they cannot speak freely when he is present, which means that he treats them the way a white man would. They make him pay dearly for that crime. They are not afraid of Mr. Norton, but they have no desire to hurt him; that would mean real trouble.

The vet’s short speeches may seem confusing. Some of what he says is indirectly stated, as the narrator himself has done in the Prologue. The vet says that he had forgotten things he never should have forgotten; the whites might have said that the Vet “forgot his place.” In learning medicine and healing, the vet neglected to keep in mind the realities of American racism. Other statements the vet makes sound completely crazy, but, as usual, this is not necessarily the case.

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