Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis
Mr. Emerson’s Son: the man with whom the narrator has an unsuccessful interview
On his way to an important interview, the narrator meets with people who shake his sense of identity. At Mr. Emerson’s office, the narrator delivers his letter and is asked to wait. After a pause, the narrator converses with the man who took the narrator’s letter.
The conversation begins amicably, but deteriorates as the narrator grows uneasy. After much confusion, the man shows the narrator the letter from Dr. Bledsoe. Stating that the narrator was an embarrassment to the college, the letter asks Mr. Emerson to please shun the narrator and his request for employment.
The narrator is devastated, but maintains his composure. The man’s offers of employment are politely declined, and the narrator leaves.
Soon after, the narrator finds his anger. After considering that young Emerson might have been lying somehow, he broods on the subject of Dr. Bledsoe. His emotions run between laughter and blind rage.
Although the narrator’s encounters with the blueprint man and the counterman are only momentary, they nonetheless signify a great deal. Both men show their feelings that the narrator might be acting to conceal what they consider his “true self.”
The narrator acknowledges this possibility, and senses that to deny his heritage would be dishonest. Yet this is a gray area, in which no one is right or wrong. After all, are the men right to have these expectations? Is the narrator obligated to have certain preferences, or to behave in a certain way, because of where and how he grew up? The narrator may or may not be stifling who he is. Questions regarding the honest expressions of identity remain unanswered.
In the narrator’s conversation with Mr. Emerson’s son, the reader sees the potential for dialogue between the races. Both the narrator’s mistrust and the young Emerson’s inner conflictedness prevent any real communication.