50 pages 1 hour read

Colson Whitehead

Harlem Shuffle

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2021

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Part 1, Chapters 6-9Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1: “The Truck | 1959”

Part 1, Chapter 6 Summary

Ray and Elizabeth visit her parents’ home, where a brand-new air-conditioning system has been installed. The building is located on Strivers’ Row, one of the nicest city blocks in Harlem. Leland Jones, Elizabeth’s father, is one of “black Harlem’s premier accountants” (62), and he knows every trick to help his clients avoid taxes, from loopholes to bribes. As the conversation drones on over dinner, Ray thinks anxiously about his options. He worries that Montague will harm him or Freddie.

His thoughts are interrupted by a discussion of Alexander Oakes, a wealthy and successful neighbor who is still in love with Elizabeth. Her parents frequently use comparisons between Alexander and Ray to criticize their daughter’s decision to settle for the less successful man. Coming from a long history of successful light-skinned African Americans, Leland and Alma have always looked down on Ray due to his dark skin and his father’s reputation. Whenever Ray tells stories from his impoverished childhood, his in-laws treat him like “a vaudeville act” (67).

On the drive home, he makes his decision: he plans to call Montague’s men and give them Arthur’s name, then warn Arthur that Montague’s men are searching for him.

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