I picked up a pencil and held it over a sheet of white paper, but my feelings stood in the way of my words. Well, I would wait, day and night, until I knew what to say. Humbly now, with no vaulting dream of achieving a vast unity, I wanted to try to build a bridge of words between me and that world outside, that world which was so distant and elusive that it seemed unreal.
I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of the hunger for life that gnaws in us all, to keep alive in our hearts a sense of the inexpressibly human. (2.10.105)
If you were looking for a happy ending, or even just a feeling of completion, you might have to look somewhere else. The final moments of the book come after Richard has been dragged out of the picket line by a bunch of angry Communists. Shocked, he goes back to his room to ask himself what he’s gotten out of his life. He has no answers.
The text ends with a flash of insight but no certainty, at least for Richard. He’s alone, he still doesn’t understand how to connect with people, he still doesn’t understand racism, and to top it all off he can’t even write very well. But he knows he’s going to try.
The dramatic irony of this is that, since we’re holding this book in our hands, we know that Richard has succeeded. But if we were his editors checking out the manuscript, we’d probably feel a lot more uneasy.