Chapter 6 Summary:
The narrator slowly and regretfully makes his way to Bledsoe's office after the chapel services. The president responds to him listlessly, reproaching him for not only going to the quarters with Mr. Norton but also taking him inside of the Golden Day. Mockingly, he brings up the incident with Trueblood as well, criticizing the narrator for giving into every want of Norton. By this point, he can no longer hold in his anger and he explodes, yelling at the narrator for his foolishness. Showing his naivete, the narrator is amazed when he hears that Bledsoe would have expected him to find excuses, to lie, instead of stopping in the slums or at a brothel. Bledsoe demands to know who told the narrator to drive where he did, shocking the narrator even further. He cries out that he is lying, and calls the narrator "nigger," enraging the narrator by using that word. When the narrator denies lying, Bledsoe reveals that he thinks the vet doctor is behind the drive and interrogates him regarding the man, noting that he will have to investigate the dangerous patient soon.
Becoming more and more desperate, the narrator attempts to defend himself by mentioning how Norton understands how it was beyond his control. Bledsoe snaps back that it is not Norton's decision and his understanding cannot make up for the incredible harm the narrator had caused. He is determined to expel the narrator, who threatens that he will tell Norton and fight to stay. Bledsoe relates that it does not matter who is told, the narrator does not amount to anyone and has no power in comparison to himself. He is at the controls and part of the larger set up of government power. He had won his place at the top by years of manipulation, of "playing the nigger" to some and acting tough to others.
Claiming to be impressed by the narrator's spirit, Bledsoe agrees to give him letters to important friends in New York where he can find a job and then pay his way back in the fall if all goes well. The narrator must leave within two days and after thinking over all day, he decides to leave as early as possible. Humiliated and ashamed, the narrator is outside of Bledsoe's office in the morning to retrieve his letters and then catches the first bus out of town. Bledsoe warns him to not read the letters, as the employers will be angered if they are tampered with.
Leaving the chapel, the narrator feels immediately different and separated from the other students. Bledsoe also sets him apart from others when he is chastising his behavior with Mr. Norton by implying that a dumb slave would have had more common sense than he. The hyperbolic lecture continues as Bledsoe claims that he has ruined the college in a half an hour. Ellison writes that he looked at the narrator as if he had committed the worst possible crime. Everything about the man is big, his power and his head most notably. He finally feigns sympathy toward the narrator only when the narrator reacts in a big way, screaming threats at him.
His response though is based more in power, relating that the threats do him no harm as no one would believe the narrator against him. By telling the narrator that he does not exist, he is trying to emphasis his size and power over the boy's. He tells him that "his arms are to short to box" with him. The battle royal comes to mind again and the reader can begin to recognize Bledsoe as a different form of the bully than Tatlock, who was also giant in size. Notice too the blood reference in his name, like that of Trueblood's. Except his has a more negative connotation, he has sacrificed much of himself in order to be inflated to the high status where he must maintain his size in order to rule. When the narrator leaves the school the next morning, Bledsoe offers him his hand. The narrator notices that it is "large and strangely limp", a perfect representation for the whole which is Bledsoe.
Chapter 7 Summary:
To the narrator's annoyance, the vet doctor happens to be on the very same bus for the beginning of his trip. The narrator could not help but partially blame the vet for his foreshadowing of his misfortune. He would like to avoid all memories attached to the disastrous day he drove Mr. Norton. Questioning the narrator, the vet introduces him to the freedom and dream-like quality of New York. Annoyed at his concentration on women, especially white women, as the symbol of the freedom he will encounter, the narrator inquires of the vet, only to learn that the vet has been transferred to Washington. The vet rightly connects his conversation with Norton to the transfer. He begins preaching again to the narrator. He blames the white establishment. The vet exits at the first stop, and leaves the narrator with the parting advice to discover the world and leave the Mr. Norton's of the world alone.
Utterly alone, the narrator's confidence begins to resurface as the landscape becomes decidedly northern. He determines to be accommodating toward his contacts so to represent his school and people well. He heads to Harlem upon arriving in New York, more secure in himself and his prospects. The subway ride is his first shock as he is pushed up against a white woman who does not appear to notice. Secondly he is greeted with a larger quantity of black people in Harlem than he expects. Lastly, he encounters a man, Ras, loudly yelling to a crowd. Fearing a riot, the narrator cannot understand why the police do nothing. Instead, the police show him to Men's House where he finds a room.
The vet's presence on the bus away from the college is an unfortunate reminder for the narrator but a significant connection by Ellison to show how their fates intertwine, giving credence to the foreshadowing comments the vet doctor made at the Golden Day. The narrator is not allowed to blot out the memory as he would like and must listen to the vet talk until the first stop. The vet prophetizes even more by speaking of how New York will effect the narrator. His eyes give away his power in foretelling the narrator's future. He is continually winking at the narrator and his eyes twinkle when he relates to the narrator that though he lives a public life, he is not actually seen. The play with the visual is in complete opposition to the blindness that Barbee possessed. Although the narrator has a greater appreciation for what Barbee said, more truth lies for him in the twinkling eye of the vet.
Ironically, the seven little sealed envelopes which the narrator is not allowed to look at make him feel sophisticated and expansive. The sealed promises raise in him the chance for a positive future along the lines he had always imagined. Yet he is immediately made to feel small and insignificant in reaching New York. In the subway, he is pressed up against large people who do not notice his presence. Exiting the subway, he alludes to the story of Jonah in the Old Testament by comparing the experience to being thrown up from the belly of a whale. Jonah is one of the few stories in the Bible where a prophet chosen by God is misled in his motives and often fails in his tasks before he learns the right path. An apt allusion, he overwhelmed is by the city he is sent to. He is lost and the police have to direct him to Men's House.
Chapter 8 Summary:
The narrator sits in his room taking in his surroundings and musing over his life back home. He feels important when thinking about his letters and decides to plan out his strategy for the next morning. In order to visit his contacts, he would have to leave early and be at each office on time. He is determined to use this opportunity to become a young and better Dr. Bledsoe by giving the employers the charming man they would want to hire. On his way to his first office in the morning, he notices a number of Black professionals strutting down the street with leather pouches attached to their wrists and he imagines that their are messengers, chained to a great deal of money.
He makes his way to Mr. Bates' office, but does not want to go in too early in case the employer does not like to see Negroes early in the morning. Questioning many other aspects of himself, the narrator has to reconvince himself to go back for the interview. When he enters he finds a lone secretary who is much more amiable than he expects. She takes the letter from him and disappears into another room. She returns to report that Mr. Bates is busy but will contact him. Disappointed, the narrator repeats the episode with several other secretaries during his first days there, not having better success. He holds onto the letter for Mr. Emerson because he learns he is out of town. When he has not heard from the other men after a considerable amount of time, the narrator becomes suspicious of the secretaries and decides to set up an interview first and then give him the letter when he gets back to town. He also thinks about Mr. Norton, writing him a letter asking to meet, hoping that their more intimate relationship will be beneficial. Norton never responds.
More and more suspicious, the narrator thinks that Norton and Bledsoe may be part of a scheme concerning him and the employers, one which he does not know how to manipulate. A western movie cheers him up briefly and a dream of his grandfather brings him down. Finally, he receives a letter from Mr. Emerson.
In accordance with the allusion to the Bible, the only familiar object the narrator finds in his new room is the Bible. It makes him feel homesick. Trying to suppress his old ways and his anger toward Bledsoe, he succeeds more in splitting himself. He mentions he will speak differently in the north and the south in order to please different people. He concentrates on what he used to know and how he does not know now. Also, he continually stresses over whether what he is wearing or what time he arrives at the interviews will be satisfactory. His first days in New York are split as well, dropping his letters in the morning and exploring the city during the afternoon. He feels his life must be properly planned out in order to be successful and thus categorizes himself into different parts. His perfectionism is reflected in the numerous drafts of his letter to Mr. Norton that he writes before drawing up an immaculate one. The many pieces of himself are inadequate unless smoothed over and edited many times. Tellingly, his letter receives no reply.
The narrator's grandfather makes another appearance in his dreams while he waits expectantly for responses to his sealed envelopes. Already doubting the letters were received into the proper hands, the dream depresses him. He feels disjointed and a member of some unwanted scheme. Not ready to listen to these warnings, he is relieved by the response from Mr. Emerson.