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Richard interviews for a job working in the home of a white family, and his prospective employer asks him outright if he will steal from her. Richard laughs and tells the woman that if he were going to steal from her, he definitely would not tell her. The woman is angered but gives him the job anyway, which pays modestly but includes meals. Richard ends up disliking the job, however, because though the white family eats plentifully, the woman offers Richard only moldy food to eat. Moreover, when the woman asks Richard why he still bothers to attend school and he replies that he wants to be a writer, she rudely mocks him. He quits almost immediately.
Richard’s next job, with another white family, is equally unpleasant. The family members are phenomenally rude and ungrateful both to each other and to him. Richard keeps the job nonetheless, because he is able to steal a considerable amount of food from the family on the side. Though the emotional stress of the job strains him, it enables him to become a full member of the community of his peers. Armed with wages and brimming with tales about his white employers, Richard can now eat lunch with his classmates and swap stories.
Ella’s health improves, and Richard begins attending a Methodist church with her. The church holds a religious revival in which the preacher calls for mothers to persuade their wayward sons to accept God. Singled out by the preacher, Richard and the several other unbelieving youths feel such pressure from the congregation that they allow themselves to be baptized even though they do not truly believe in God. After the baptism, Richard admits to the other baptized boys that he does not feel any different, and they voice similar sentiments.
Soon thereafter, Ella suffers yet another paralytic stroke. Money is running tight, so Granny allows Uncle Tom and his family to move in, in exchange for a small rent. One morning, Tom awakens Richard to ask him what time it is. When Richard tells him the time, his uncle does not believe that it is accurate, but Richard checks again and offhandedly says that the time he had given was close enough. Tom gets incredibly angry and vows to give Richard the whipping of his life for what he perceives as unfathomable insubordination. Richard fights Tom off with two razors, shocking his uncle and breaking his domineering spirit.
During the summer before eighth grade, Richard works as a water boy and brick gatherer in the local brickyard. One afternoon the boss’s dog bites Richard, which worries him because he knows that several other workers have fallen ill after being bitten by the dog. Richard meets with the boss, but he does not take Richard seriously, claiming, “A dog bite can’t hurt a nigger.” Fortunately, though the wound gets inflamed, it heals on its own in a few days.
Richard starts the eighth grade, depressed that his education has furnished him with no skills to help him earn a living. Though he dwells on racism and can only think of it in terms of the large-scale, universal injustice it represents, his classmates limit their discussion of racism to individual, personal wrongs they have experienced.
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