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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 479

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On the eve of the narrator and his family’s departure for the United States after twelve years of residence in Paris, the narrator is being chided by his wife and visiting sister about his nightmares. He is worried about his return to the racist United States after such a long absence and what effect it will have on his multiracial family and his career.

The story is structured around a series of social interactions. The first concerns the narrator’s family and his Paris existence. He puts his son to bed in the concierge’s apartment, and his wife and sister go out on the town. The narrator slips into the first of his reveries on his apartment balcony overlooking the Eiffel Tower as he revisits his first years in Paris as an expatriate and struggling artist. He speculates on the whereabouts of his old North African friends and the conditions of the current Algerian conflict. He is in love with Paris and the French because they do not judge him on skin color, but he deplores their colonial war.

The narrator has an extended flashback about his visit to the United States eight years before for his mother’s funeral. He describes the boat trip on which he sings spirituals and blues for a white audience, and his arrival in New York, where he is called “boy” by a white officer as he descends the gangplank and is engulfed by the “cunning and murderous beast” of New York City.

The flashback ends and the narrator welcomes his French friend and director, Jean Luc Vidal, into his Paris apartment. Over drinks, they reminisce about the narrator’s defining role as Chico in Les Fauves nous attendent, a movie about a young mulatto man from Martinique who dies tragically in the underworld of Paris. Vidal drew a great performance out of the narrator by forcing him to confront his own interior demons, including the hateful summer after his mother’s death that he spent in the American South working as an elevator boy.

The final section of the story takes place on Paris’s Left Bank. In a discotheque, the narrator is recognized and approached by four African American students on tour in Europe. On their way to a Spanish bar, they hook up with Boona, an old Arab friend of the narrator. In a Spanish bar, one of the American girls has ten dollars stolen. Boona is accused and the narrator intercedes. Boona denies he stole the money. The matter is finally dropped, but not without an argument that forces the narrator to think about his position in relation to Africans. In the early hours they separate, and the narrator goes home to stand over his sleeping son’s bed pondering father-son relationships. He awakens his son and they set out on their journey to the new world.

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