A nightmare vision of the African American experience, Runner Mack fittingly opens with Henry Adams dreaming of a painful encounter with a dentist. Awakening to discover a leaking ceiling to be the source of his nightmare, Henry soon finds himself in a violent encounter with Alvarez, the building superintendent. Alvarez’s refusal to speak English, his having stolen Henry’s pajamas, and his using a guard dog to protect him from the tenant quickly establish the motifs of the inability to communicate, exploitation, oppression, and Henry’s general sense of alienation.
On the way to a job interview in a crowded, noisy, impersonal metropolis resembling New York City, Henry is struck by a truck but continues on, with minor injuries, because of his determination to make a successful life for himself and his wife, Beatrice, in the North. Despite the clearly racist attitudes of the executives at Home Manufacturing, the desperate Henry, who has washed dishes, delivered fish, and sold encyclopedias since arriving in the city, accepts a position. He is disturbed by not knowing exactly what products the company makes and how the tasks he performs in the section known as “identification and recovery” fit into the greater scheme. Home Manufacturing controls its employees through indifference and intimidation.
Henry’s supervisor, the ironically named Mister Boye, crudely attempts to make Henry feel at ease by showing him pornographic...
(The entire section is 560 words.)