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Sacred FireWith his first novel, Chester B. Himes secured his place in the vanguard of the emerging young black writers of his time who were honestly detailing the rigors of black life in America. Unlike his contemporaries Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison, Himes was not a writer with overt political concerns. His novel does, however, delve into the existential cost that black men had to pay for the racism around them: that they had to live constantly, absurdly aware of the color of their skin.
Bob Jones's story is a simple one told in clear, direct prose. All Bob wants is "to be accepted as a man—without ambition, without distlnction, either of race, creed, or color." But in the 1940s and 1950s, nothing was simple between blacks and whites. Bob quickly finds himself losing his hopes and ambitions as he is crushed beneath the weight of racism and discrimination. His life spins out of control until he hates everyone around him: the blacks fbr being powerless to change their lives; the whites for taking advantage of them. Bob Jones is every black man at that time, who was, every day, walking a tightrope of racial tension, except Bob falls, pushed by a loose blonde who kissed him, then framed him on a rape charge.
If He Hollers Let Him Go is a masterpiece for its bitter and honest portrayal of the life of a normal black man in America, and it speaks to any person who has felt, at some time or other, that the or she has had enough abuse on account of the color of their skin. Himes demonstrated in the person of Bob Jones that one of the most critical rights that black people have been denied is the right to just live their lives unbothered and unmolested and to follow their impulses and desires with no greater reward or punishment than nature's laws of cause and effect.
The indignity of it, the gutting of my pride, what a nigger had to take just to keep on living in this goddamned world. The cold scared feeling started damping down on me; it nailed me to my seat, weak and black and powerless.