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Quotes

Quote #1

On my graduation day I delivered an oration in which I showed that humility was the secret, indeed, the very essence of progress. (Not that I believed this – how could I, remember my grandfather? – I only believed that it worked.) It was a great success…It was a triumph for our whole community. (1.3)

Early in the novel, the narrator is willing to sacrifice truth for ambition.

Quote #2

"To Whom It May Concern," I intoned. "Keep This Nigger-Boy Running." (1.105)

The narrator dreams that the scholarship to the Negro college is really another way for whites to keep him running in place, that a college education won't actually change his lot in life.

Quote #3

Many of the men had been doctors, lawyers, teachers, Civil Service workers; there were several cooks, a preacher, a politician, and an artist. One very nutty one had been a psychiatrist. Whenever I saw them I felt uncomfortable. They were supposed to be members of the professions toward which at various times I vaguely aspired myself, and even though they never seemed to see me I could never believe that they were really patients. (3.35)

There is heavy symbolism here: the narrator's ambitions are shown to be hopeless as the black people who take up professions of cook, lawyer, doctor, teacher, and artist are nonetheless marginalized members of society.

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