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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 465

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Here are some quotes from Manchild in the Promised Land:

  • "I was back in the fish-and-chips joint, lying on the floor dying. Only, now I was in more pain than before, and there were dozens of Mamas around me jumping and screaming. I could hear myself dying in a rising pool of blood. The higher the blood rose the more I died" (3). After Sonny is shot and taken to the hospital, he is administered morphine and has a nightmare about his mother (in multiples) jumping around him while his blood rises. This is the incident that begins the book and starts Sonny down a path of eventual discovery and redemption.
  • "I spoke to Papanek. He was a real nice cat . . . He wasn't a pushover kind of cat. He was just a nice cat, a cat you had to respect. When most people say 'nice,' they mean someone you can run over or get your way with, but he wasn't nice that way. The cat was nice in his mind. The way he looked at life and people was beautiful" (109). Sonny meets Papanek in Wiltwyck, and Papanek, the administrator, inspires Sonny with his belief in Sonny and with his kindness. Papanek has faith in Sonny and shows him acceptance and love. Papanek is an example to Sonny of someone who can be loving; he is different from the hardened people Sonny sees around him.
  • "You had to get into this thing with the whores, and sooner or later you had to use drugs, and sooner or later you had to shoot somebody or do something crazy like that. And I didn't want to" (111). In this quote, Sonny is speaking about the life that awaits him in Harlem, or in Brooklyn, if he continues to hang out with his gang. It is a life that involves drugs, prostitution, and crime, and he feels he wants something different.
  • "No, Sonny, I mean Coptic. This is the true black man's faith. It comes straight from the Black continent" (214). Billy introduces Sonny to the Coptic faith, which inspires Sonny to find out more about Africa and to develop a better sense of himself and his potential.
  • "I looked down at the little boy. He was looking at me and smiling. Suddenly he just said, 'Hey, what do you do?'" When Sonny returns to Harlem and is walking down 8th Avenue, a boy with a dog approaches him and asks him what he does. When Sonny asks the boy why he wants to know, the boy responds, "'Cause I want to do it too. I want to be just like you' (278). Sonny decides that he needs to do something with his life to have an answer to this question, and the boy inspires him to lead a better life.