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Free Study Guide-The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X-Free Notes
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Chapters 3 & 4

Notes

In these two chapters the reader gets a glimpse into the life of a black kid in the U.S. then (1930's -40's). The process of applying lye to straighten the hair was a common practice among the black kids. Although, the entire process was extremely painful, like Malcolm, all the kids did it regularly only because they wanted to resemble a white man. This willingness to hurt their own bodies, to resemble a white man, is reflection of a lack of pride in one's own color, race and culture. Again, when Malcolm dumps Laura for Sophia, a young white girl, it is a reflection of what most young black youth preferred. Having a white girlfriend was a status symbol. And like other black kids, Malcolm befriends Sophia not because he likes her, but because she was like the proverbial forbidden fruit. American society did not accept interracial relationships then. By having a relationship with Sophia, Malcolm had the excitement of doing something that was socially forbidden. Moreover, having a white girlfriend improved his status among his friends.

In these chapter(s), the reader meets two very important people in Malcolm's life, Shorty and Laura. Shorty came from Malcolm's hometown in Michigan. Shorty is a young man working in the poolroom of a bar in Boston, when he first meets Malcolm. Though there is a great difference in age between the two, they both get along like old friends. It is Shorty who helps him around the new city and teaches him to dress up the way city kids dressed then. Shorty and Malcolm's friendship lasts a long time. Later, in the book, Shorty becomes his partner while robbing rich white families in and around Boston.


Laura comes across as a sweet and shy young girl who is attracted to Malcolm partly because Malcolm with his zoot suit and straightened hair seem to be rebelling against all the good values that Laura had been taught. Deep down, she too wanted to break free from the strict discipline at home. Being with Malcolm gave her a chance to give vent to her feelings. Moreover, Laura really loved Malcolm. She is totally shattered when he dumps her for a white girl. The deep sense of betrayal pushes her towards bad vices like drugs and later to prostitution.

The entire chapter devoted to this young girl Laura (his first love) reveals Malcolm's affection for her. He speaks of his tender feelings and emotions for Laura. At the end, Malcolm apologizes for his behavior, which he feels is responsible for her moral destruction. This apology comes from a man who has completely changed and is a leading spokesperson of the Nation of Islam. But the way he accepts his mistake committed as an immature, brainwashed teenager reveal his humility, as well as his respect for women.

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