Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2253
Prologue 1. What does the reader know about the narrator solely on the basis of the Prologue? Take this opportunity to play detective, and explain both what he reveals about himself explicitly and what inferences can be drawn, justifying your findings as you go along.
2. Focus on the fantasy...
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1. What does the reader know about the narrator solely on the basis of the Prologue? Take this opportunity to play detective, and explain both what he reveals about himself explicitly and what inferences can be drawn, justifying your findings as you go along.
2. Focus on the fantasy section of the Prologue. What’s going on there? The narrator imagines a series of scenes beginning with a sermon. What themes does it reveal?
1. Why might the adults present at grandfather’s deathbed have reacted the way that they did? If it’s true that the grandfather may have been crazy, what other possibilities exist?
2. Why would the audience listening to the narrator’s speech have reacted so strongly to the narrator’s mistake? Discuss the implications of his slip of the tongue.
1. Examine the details the narrator gives about the college at the start of the chapter. What kind of picture is evoked? What do we know about that part of the narrator’s life?
2. Notice how the narrator is determined to show Mr. Norton something he’d never seen before. Follow the progression of statements, thoughts, and decisions bringing Mr. Norton and Jim Trueblood together.
1. We are told that the men who visit the Golden Day are “shell-shocked,” which means that they are suffering from permanent stress from wartime battles. What other reasons might they have for being there?
2. The prolonged scene of chaos that unfolds inside the Golden Day is comparable with the descriptions of the battle royal. What are the differences? Look at the relationships between the people involved. What different purposes does the violence serve?
1. Write a character sketch of Dr. Bledsoe based on the information in this chapter. What does the reader know about him? What inferences can be drawn from this knowledge? Be sure to support your observations.
2. Summarize the narrator’s “crimes,” as Dr. Bledsoe might call them. Explain how they happened, and whether or not the narrator could have avoided them. Who is right in this situation?
1. The Founder is an important figure in the sermon. Does Reverend Barbee disclose the race of the Founder? By what information can the reader divine whether the Founder was black or white? What difference would this have made?
2. At the end of the chapter, the narrator feels that the sermon is not likely to make Dr. Bledsoe soft-hearted when considering the narrator’s situation. Why does the narrator feel this way? How might Dr. Bledsoe’s mood be influenced by the sermon? What about the sermon would create this mood?
1. Consider Dr. Bledsoe’s way of looking at race relations. He tells the narrator that it didn’t matter what Mr. Norton wanted to see or do; the narrator was in charge. Bledsoe also says that he thought that the narrator had more sense and was not such a fool. What were Dr. Bledsoe’s expectations of the narrator? How does he suggest that the narrator could have lied? How did the narrator fail to meet those expectations?
2. At one point in their talk, Dr. Bledsoe says that Mr. Norton could have made the narrator’s fortune. What does this mean and imply? Consider the relative positions of the narrator and Mr. Norton, and the fact that the narrator thinks about the possibility of getting something from Mr. Norton at the beginning of Chapter Two. What would the narrator have had to do in order to get something from Mr. Norton, and why was he unable to do it?
1. It is important to remember what Dr. Bledsoe said about the Vet (hint: look about five pages into Chapter Six). Is it a coincidence that the Vet is going up to St. Elizabeth’s? Why would someone like Dr. Bledsoe want the vet to be sent away?
2. Describe the narrator’s impressions of both New York City and Harlem. What is different about his new surroundings, and what changes will they most likely lead to in the narrator’s life?
1. Summarize the narrator’s fears. Are they reasonable, given what you have read in the novel? If the fears center on Dr. Bledsoe and Mr. Norton, are there grounds for the narrator to be concerned? If the fears are based on other feelings, is there evidence behind them?
2. In this chapter and the one before it, the narrator saw black people with jobs unlike those that blacks had in the South. Pick three examples and describe them. What responsibilities do these jobs involve? What does it imply to say that blacks can and do hold them?
1. The narrator’s conversation with Emerson’s son has many twists and turns. What happens that complicates the discussion they have? Is it clear that Emerson’s son wishes to help the narrator? Why or why not?
2. The narrator thinks very deeply about a song he heard on the subway after leaving Emerson’s office. What is the significance of the song, both in the chapter and in the novel thus far? Discuss how the story in the song applies to the narrator’s life, especially to what Bledsoe has done to him.
1. A wide variety of people interact with the narrator at the paint factory. How do they treat him? Follow the action of the chapter, and include some discussion of all of the interactions. Is there racism? Is the narrator treated as an individual?
2. Write a character sketch of Lucius Brockway, given what we are told in this chapter. Beyond this, what inferences can be drawn? Be sure to support your observations.
1. This chapter shows a great range of internal moods in the narrator. Describe when and why his mood changes, especially based on the questions and his reactions to them.
2. How do the doctors and nurses treat the narrator, both in terms of what they do and how they do it? How does the behavior of these people compare to the treatment that the narrator has received from whites in the past?
1. Describe Mary. What does the reader know about her, and what does the advice that Mary gives the narrator tell us about her?
2. The narrator sees many different kinds of people when he goes back to the Men’s House. His descriptions of the men reveal a lot about how they live in Harlem. What does the information in each of the brief descriptions tell us about the men?
1. Discuss the significance of the narrator’s experience with the yam seller. How does it compare with the narrator’s breakfast in the diner in Chapter Nine? Why does eating the yams make the narrator think and feel about Bledsoe?
2. Summarize the narrator’s interview with Brother Jack in the cafeteria. How does each feel about the eviction, and how does each respond to the other’s viewpoint? What does the encounter help you learn about each of the characters?
1. Examine the narrator’s reactions to the drunk man who asks him to sing. How does the narrator respond? Why does he respond in this way, and why does his response get such a reaction from those around him?
2. What does the reader know about the Brotherhood thus far? Review what Brother Jack says in Chapter Thirteen, combined with relevant quotations and material in this chapter, and sum up the group’s philosophy and agenda.
1. Discuss the narrator’s thinking about leaving Mary’s place and going to the address the Brotherhood has found for him. Why does he think that it might be a bad idea? What advantages are there to moving? How does he explain his decision to himself?
2. What reasons do the woman and the man give for not wanting anything to do with the narrator’s package? Is what they say motivated from bitterness, or anger, or other emotions? Also, how does the narrator respond in each of the conversations?
1. Go through the chapter and compare all the moments where the narrator mentions sight in one way or another. The discussion of this chapter includes some comments on blindness, and the narrator makes many other references to being seen, the uses of sight, and the forms of blindness. Explain his references to what eyes do or cannot do, in both the narration and the quotations, in terms of the novel thus far.
2. Discuss Brother Jack’s reactions to the narrator’s speech and to what the other Brotherhood members have to say about the speech. What do these reactions reveal about the character? Are they surprising, given what the reader has learned about Brother Jack previously?
1. What are your impressions of the Brotherhood, based on both this chapter, and what you have learned from earlier chapters? How friendly an organization is it, and what about it (if anything) might make you suspicious?
2. Summarize what Ras says to the narrator and Clifton. What are your reactions to the speech he gives them? How does it fit in with the definition of “exhort”? Why do you think they call him crazy?
1. How do you perceive interpersonal relations at the Brotherhood? What evidence of division can be seen in this chapter? Are these problems of communication simply the standard results of people working together, or are there deep conflicts between the members of the Brotherhood? Be sure to cite examples and details from the chapter.
2. Describe the meeting in which the narrator faces the charges against him. What is the mood, and how does it change? How do people communicate their views? How does the narrator handle himself? What should he have done differently, and why?
1. Summarize the narrator’s discussion with the woman known only as Hubert’s wife. What messages are they sending to each other? Did the narrator have reasonable expectations for intellectual conversation when he went to her apartment?
2. What is the significance of the husband’s appearance in the apartment? What do the narrator and the reader know about the situation that they didn’t know before, and how does this knowledge tie in with the conversation between the narrator and the woman?
1. Describe the mood in Harlem, based on what we read in this chapter. Use specific details from different moments and incidents, being sure to observe people and descriptions closely, and support your points.
2. Given what we know of Brother Tod Clifton, since having met him, try to give some explanation of his behavior. Concentrate on what Ras said to Clifton and the narrator in Chapter Seventeen. We have seen before that when characters act crazy, or are called crazy, there is generally something more at work. What might that be, in this situation?
1. This chapter is filled with questions. Many of them are asked by the narrator, who does not expect an answer. Pick five of the rhetorical questions that the narrator asks and try to provide answers for them, based on what you have read about the subject.
2. Summarize the narrator’s funeral address. How many questions does he ask, and of whom does he ask them? What do you think he feels about the audience in the park? Does he say anything about himself, or the Brotherhood? What does he assume, about both Tod Clifton and his audience?
1. Evaluate the argument from the point of view of your own logic. Whose position in the argument makes the most sense to you? Each stance is well-defined, and thoroughly contradicts the other. Be sure to explain which response makes the most sense to you.
2. How do the three men—the narrator, Brother Jack and Brother Tobitt—frame their comments? Which of the comments are sarcastic, and which ones serious? How well does each side communicate with the other?
1. What do you think about the narrator’s reactions to the Brotherhood in this chapter? Brother Hambro has given his thoughts on the organization’s decisions and policies, and you have material from other chapters on which to draw. Do the Brotherhood’s plans make sense? Why or why not?
2. What is the narrator’s response to Rinehart and the roles that Rinehart plays? Summarize the narrator’s thoughts on Rinehart.
1. The narrator seems to have conflicting emotions in his tryst with Sybil. Explain why this might be the case. What do they say to each other, and what disparate agendas are they pursuing?
2. Write a character summary of Sybil. Why is she in bed with the narrator? What does she want from him? Analyze what she does and what she says.
1. Is the Brotherhood responsible for the riot in Harlem? Could the members have prevented it, or was it inevitable? Why does the narrator feel that the Brotherhood should be held accountable for what has happened?
2. When was it clear that the narrator wanted to go to Mary’s place? Why does the narrator desire to return to Mary’s, and what stops him? Why do you think he says that he was invisible to Mary?
1. Describe the narrator’s tone of voice in the Epilogue. He is explaining himself—how does he do that, and what impressions does his mood give you? Be sure to support your points with details from the text.
2. What is your reaction to the narrator’s meeting with Mr. Norton? How do they act and react? How is what the narrator says reminiscent of what the Vet has to say while tending Mr. Norton’s wounds, in Chapter Three?