58 pages 1 hour read

Chester Himes

If He Hollers Let Him Go

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1945

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Important Quotes

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“The white folks had sure brought their white to work with them that morning.”


(Chapter 2, Page 18)

When Bob gets to work on the morning of the first day detailed in the novel, several different white employees give Bob and his crew of black employees a hard time before they even make it past the parking lot. All of the white workers’ jokes, jabs, and insults are racial, and Bob feels they are deliberately using their whiteness to make him feel inferior.

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“Ben was standing in the opening, grinning at me. He was a light-brown-skinned guy in his early thirties, good-looking with slightly Caucasian features and straight brown hair. He was a graduate of U.C.L.A. and didn’t take anything from the white folks and didn’t give them anything. If he had been on the job for more than nine months he’d probably have been the leaderman instead of me; he probably knew more than I did, anyway. I grinned back at him. He said, ‘Tough, Bob, but you got to take it.’”


(Chapter 3, Pages 24-25)

This passage demonstrates one of the first instances of Bob acknowledging color prejudice in the novel. He assumes that, because Ben is lighter-skinned, he is probably more capable than Bob. He also recognizes that Ben can get away with standing up to white people more easily because they also show more respect to lighter-skinned black people. Ben states an unfortunate consequence of one of the themes of the novel: because racism is systemic in America, a black man like Bob just has to passively take the way white people treat him.

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“I wanted him to feel as scared and powerless and unprotected as I felt every goddamned morning I woke up. I wanted him to know how it felt to die without a chance; how it felt to look death in the face and know it was coming and know there wasn’t anything he could do but sit there and take it like I had to take it from Kelly and Hank and Mac and the cracker bitch because nobody was going to help him or stop it or do anything about it at all.”


(Chapter 4, Page 36)

Bob is thinking about how he wants to kill Johnny Stoddart, the white man who knocked him out during a crap game. Bob explains how, by killing Johnny, he wants to show him exactly what it feels like to be a black man in a white man’s world.

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