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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 507

In Somewhere in the Darkness , Walter Dean Myers writes an unsentimental, realistic story of the obstacles that thwart understanding between people, even two people seemingly as close as father and son. Both Jimmy and Crab enter the relationship warily, but at the same time with a hope that lies...

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In Somewhere in the Darkness, Walter Dean Myers writes an unsentimental, realistic story of the obstacles that thwart understanding between people, even two people seemingly as close as father and son. Both Jimmy and Crab enter the relationship warily, but at the same time with a hope that lies just below the surface of doubt and suspicion. Jimmy wants to know his father but at the same time cannot automatically trust a man he has never known. He wants to reach out to Crab in the older man’s pain and need, but he cannot fully believe in a man who claims to want to clear his name of the crime for which he has been convicted and yet who funds his quest through car theft and credit card fraud.

Both men have needs, and often in the novel those needs are selfish. Crab admits that he wants Jimmy to come with him because Crab needs to have resolution before his death. Jimmy feels physically ill as he leaves Mama Jean’s sheltering love, but, at the same time, he also needs to know what it means to have a father and to be a man. The younger man and the older man circle each other for most of the novel, until a final confrontation occurs at the dramatic climax of the work when the police are closing in to capture Crab. Crab reaches out to Jimmy for acceptance as his father, but Jimmy is not able to accept Crab’s selfishness, his failure as a father, and his false conception of what it means to be tough in a hostile world. Jimmy looks to Crab for answers to the problems that torment his own life and finds only the same weaknesses. With Crab’s death, Jimmy runs out of time to find answers through his father. As he says near the end of the novel, “There wasn’t time enough or world enough to piece together their prison dreams.” As Crab is captured, he apologizes to Jimmy for his failures.

Myers handles Crab’s death scene in the hospital with restraint and a lack of sentimentality. There are no death-bed revelations, no epiphanies. Crab mumbles words of regret about a failed life, and his last communication with Jimmy is an ambiguous smile. After Crab’s funeral, Jimmy meditates on that smile: Had it been a smile of sympathy and recognition for their shared experience, or had it been a scornful laugh at Jimmy’s inexperience and lack of toughness? The choice and the ambiguity reflect the lack of resolution with which the novel ends. Jimmy is left alone with the knowledge that he must answer his own questions and take responsibility for his own life. He is also convinced that if he ever has a son of his own, that their relationship will be based on honesty and a shared commitment. Jimmy must determine the outcome of his own life and must take personal responsibility in order to make his hopes something more than prison dreams.

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