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Free Study Guide-The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X-Free Notes
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Chapter 9

Notes

In this chapter, Malcolm is taking a long hard look at his life, before he becomes a black Muslim. He was totally hooked on drugs, carried guns, gambled and robbed. He had no morals, did not believe in God, and treated women as though they were something to be used.

And yet the quality of sensing or anticipating danger and fearlessness carried to the point of recklessness is something that stayed with him even after he converted to Islam and joined the Nation.

The organizing and planning skills that he had developed during his hustling days helped him later in organizing and setting up branches of the Nation. The quality of fearlessness helped him to speak out without mincing words about the unjust and racist system that the blacks were living under.

The end of the chapter, where he does not shoot at the cop, though he was carrying his gun, reveals two aspects of his personality. First, that deep down, he was not evil. Second, that though he had taken to crime, he still had an innate sense of justice and fair play. He could not shoot a man, who had his back to him, totally unprepared for an attack.

In the chapter Malcolm is back in Boston with his close friend Shorty. He even meets Ella his sister. Both are shocked to the transformation they see in him. The tall lanky teenager had now become a drug addict who smoked and spoke profane language and did not believe in God. Even Shorty who had initiated him into smoking reefers couldn't help staring at him in surprise.

In spite of this change in Malcolm, both Ella and Shorty do not hate him. In fact, Ella, like a mother warns him that if he carried on like this he would soon get into deep trouble. This proves to be a 'prophecy', which becomes true at the end of the chapter. Meanwhile, Shorty lets him stay at his apartment and stands by him when he has neither money, nor hustle and no roof over his head.


While the chapter speaks volumes about Shorty's loyalty towards his friend Malcolm, the reader learns more about his personality too. According to Malcolm, Shorty could never keep a girlfriend for long because he treated them very well. So well, that the girl got bored of it. This observation reveals Malcolm's deep understanding of the opposite sex. This comes as a surprise because Malcolm's only other relationship apart from Sophia was with Laura. Yet he could make such a perceptive statement about women. Perhaps he learned this from his stay in Harlem where his neighbors were all prostitutes. Talking to them as good friends, Malcolm states that he learned about the relationships between men and women and more importantly between a husband and wife. The prostitute friends were in a better position to tell him all this because the male customers who came to them were either married or dejected lovers who poured forth all their views and feelings on them.

Finally the peculiar relationship between Sophia and Malcolm gives the reader a picture of the segregated life in the U.S. then. So deep was the racial prejudice that even if a white woman was going through hell in her married life she could not reveal her relationship with a black man, even if she wanted to spite her husband. She dared not because it would mean death for the black man. This is something Sophia would never want. For, though she did not love him, she was emotionally attached to him and required his company when she had personal problems. Moreover, though there were various clandestine inter-racial relationships, a black man and a white woman moving around together openly would never be tolerated. It was considered to be a sin. Hence, Sophia could never tell her husband, in spite of a troubled marriage, that she was having an affair with a black man.

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