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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Chicago, with its fumes and traffic, frightens Richard. He is not sure of finding peace and security in the city. When they reach Aunt Cleoís place, they realize that she is living in a rented room and not in an apartment as they had expected. So, Richard rents another room in the house. Next morning, he travels far into the south, looking for a job. He spots an advertisement for the job of a porter, outside a shop of a Jewish owner. After inquiring about his credentials, Mr. Hoffman hires him for the job. The work is light but Richard is confused by the language used by the staff. However, with time, he gets used to his surroundings.
When he comes across an advertisement for Postal clerks, he applies for the position. A few days before the examination, he takes leave from his job to prepare for it. After the exam, he reports for duty and tells Mr. Hoffman that he had gone to attend the funeral of his mother. His boss understands that it is a lie and makes the boy understand that there is no need to feel bad about fulfilling oneís obligations outside the shop. Richard feels ashamed of himself. His guilty conscience makes him uneasy and he resigns from the job. Shortly afterwards, he takes up work as a dishwasher in a Café. Here, he interacts with both black girls and white girls, who are cordial and friendly. Only the elderly Finnish cook, Tillie, keeps aloof. Richard gets the opportunity to observe her as she cooks. To his dismay, he notices that she often spits into the pot in which she is cooking. Revolted by the sight, he shares the news with a Negro girl, who makes salads at the Café. The girl is shocked to see Tillie spitting into the cooking vessel. She reports the matter to the owner of the Café. The lady observes Tillie repeating her disgusting act and throws her out of the job.
Richard clears the Postal examination and is enrolled as a temporary clerk at the Post office. The job involves little work, but there is sufficient income. It also gives him enough time to read different kinds of books. Thus, Richard renews his reading habits and also makes an attempt at writing. A great urge compels him to transform his feelings into paper. Shortly afterwards, he has to go through the medical examination. He is declared unfit for the job, as he is under weight. Richard feels disappointed.
At home, Aunt Maggie starts considering him as a burden. So, Richard moves into another apartment and shares it with Aunt Cleo. He rejoins the Café and continues to work as a dishwasher. In the meantime, he also starts preparing for the next Postal examination. He tries to eat more and gain the extra weight needed. He also reads a lot and tries to probe into the core of his life.
A new chapter of Richardís life begins. He enters the fast life of Chicago, with its traffic, noise and pollution. The mechanical existence of the city astounds him and he fears that he will become a victim of its inhumanity. He starts viewing its residents with prejudice, but finds them human and considerate. His haunting experience in the south makes him cautious in his approach towards others. When he gets a job as a porter in a shop, he looks at the owners with suspicion. Thus, he withholds the information about his Postal examination from Mr. Hoffman, for fear of being scoffed at by the boss. When Hoffman assures him that he would allow Richard to pursue his activities outside the shop, he feels ashamed of telling a lie. Later, at the Café, he is surprised to find that the White waitresses friendly. They look at him as a fellow worker and not a Negro. Chicago thus partially lifts the cobwebs from the mind of Richard, about the racial bias of the White man in general.
Opportunities knock on Richardís door, but elude him when he tries to grapple at them. He clears the Postal examination and gets employed as a temporary clerk. The job gives him security and time to pursue reading. Richard is happy with his situation and makes the most of it by reading a variety of books by different authors. His mental horizon expands and stirs his creativity. He feels the desire to pen down his thoughts in words. However, uncertainty looms large in the horizon, as the medical examination nears. Richardís weight falls short of expectations and he loses his job at the Post Office. Once again, he is jobless.
The harsh realities of life make Richard cynical and impersonal. He becomes immune to suffering and remains unaffected by the ups and downs of life. He learns to live for the present and take life in its stride. The concluding lines of the chapter sum up his attitude: "At twenty years of age, the mold of my life was set, was hardening into a pattern that was neither good nor evil, neither right nor wrong." Richard starts viewing life as a detached observer.