Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 715
“Looking for Mr. Green” recounts the efforts of George Grebe to deliver relief checks to handicapped residents of the South Side of Chicago. Grebe, thirty-five and an instructor of classical languages, has been reduced by the hard times of the Depression to taking a series of trivial, part-time jobs until an old schoolmate secures for him a position at the relief office. Grebe’s desire to do well at his new job is hampered by its peculiar difficulty: “He could find the streets and numbers, but the clients were not where they were supposed to be.” Grebe is particularly frustrated by his inability to find Mr. Tulliver Green but persists in his search long after quitting time. As the story develops, Grebe’s quest to find Mr. Green becomes a symbolic quest to find his own identity.
Grebe systematically questions a local grocer, the janitor, and several tenants of Mr. Green’s building. Their responses are hostile and evasive. Grebe is viewed “as an emissary from hostile appearances” because he is not yet a familiar face in the territory and because he is white. Although Grebe himself has known hardship, he is out of place in this rundown district of the city, where he is shocked by the distrust of the people and the blighted physical setting.
Before Grebe continues his hunt, he recalls his first meeting with his supervisor, Mr. Raynor. Their conversation establishes somewhat of a kinship between them. Both are well educated and speak foreign languages, and they exchange a few Latin phrases. Their views on the nature of reality, however, establish that they are indeed from different worlds. Although Grebe treats the problem of appearance and reality philosophically, Raynor’s reality comes down to money, “even though nothing looks to be real, and everything stands for something else, and that thing for another thing, and that thing for still a further one—there ain’t any comparison between twenty-five and thirty-seven dollars a week, regardless of the last reality.” Grebe’s and Raynor’s perceptions of Mrs. Staika further illustrate their differences.
Staika is called the “Blood Mother of Federal Street” because she is a professional donor of blood, dragging her children around with her as she defies the world. After notifying the press, Staika sets up her ironing board at the agency office to protest their failure to pay her electric bill. Raynor believes that Staika will “get what she wants. . . . She’s got [the commissioner] submerged; she’ll submerge everybody in time, and that includes nations and governments.” Grebe, however, disagrees completely; he does not believe that Staika’s yelling will bring about change, because her protests are so outrageous. Staika reminds Grebe of “the war of flesh and blood,...
(The entire section contains 715 words.)
Unlock This Study Guide Now
Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Looking for Mr. Green study guide. You'll get access to all of the Looking for Mr. Green content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.