58 pages 1 hour read

Chester Himes

If He Hollers Let Him Go

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1945

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Character Analysis

Robert “Bob” Jones

Bob Jones is the first-person narrator and protagonist of the novel. He is a young black man who works in the defense industry in Los Angeles during World War II. Bob once aspired to be more than a shipyard worker, having attended two years of college in the interest of becoming a doctor, but had to drop out due to family issues. Instead, Bob moves to L.A. from Cleveland in search of a better life and a deferment from the war, of which he is very afraid.

Now that he lives in L.A., Bob experiences intense anxiety and fear because of the conditions of his life in white society. He has become obsessed with white people: with white men and their perceived superior masculinity; with white women and their attitude of superiority; and with the way white people use their whiteness to get ahead in life and oppress black people. Bob is also obsessed with blackness—especially the way his blackness seems to cripple his masculinity, his autonomy, and his attempts at upward mobility. Throughout the novel, Bob’s lived experience shows how blackness makes him vulnerable to abuses and discrimination from white people. 

While Bob exists in an almost-constant state of anxiety, he also often exhibits intense rage in response to the way he is constantly treated by white society.

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