Study Guide: A Hope In the Unseen by Ron Suskind - Online Notes|
7. Good-Bye to Yesterday
On Friday night, Cedric's unit has an orientation diversity workshop run by the university chaplain, Rabbi Alan Flam, assisted by Vida Garcia, a Hispanic third-year resident counselor. The emphasis on ethnic and racial traits as the main form of cultural identity troubles several students, while the inclusion of sexual identity and disabilities only makes matters more confusing. Cedric speaks up and says he believes identity should come from something the individual takes pride in, such as character and faith and how people are treated, which goes beyond skin color and thus brings people together instead of dividing them. This does not jibe with the ideas of Rabbi Flam or Garcia, who try to steer the discussion back to their own notions of diversity. As a result, Cedric gives up on this workshop.
Early Saturday afternoon, Rob writes a letter to his parents, mentioning Cedric and how well they are getting along. This is the first time Rob has been close to a black person, and he is afraid of offending Cedric. He also knows that there is great interest in Cedric, as there are few black kids from inner cities at the university. However, differences between the roommates are manifesting: Rob is messy while Cedric wants a clean room; Cedric believes Rob walking around barefoot is disgusting; and Cedric watches a good deal of television, which bothers Rob.
With his pocket money from Barbara gone by Monday morning, Cedric goes to the registrar's office to try to pick up his permanent ID card early. After some difficulty, he succeeds. He joins others in his unit for a late breakfast, where Cedric entertains others by telling them what television characters they look like. With classes beginning the next day, Cedric goes to the bookstore to buy his textbooks. He is still not sure what his fourth class will be for this semester, and receives sarcastic answers when he asks two bookstore employees if a Physics class is full. He finally decides on the History of American Education, taught by Professor James. Tuesday morning, Cedric attends a convocation ceremony where Elie Wiesel expresses a general lack of hope. Over lunch, he tells Rob how excited he is about his Richard Wright seminar, then continues to entertain people by comparing them to television characters. Cedric jokes about having roommate problems with Rob; returning to their dorm room, Cedric sings a Boyz II Men song, astonishing Rob.
The drive to Providence vividly illustrates the growing chasm between Barbara's life and Cedric's. The
disconnect is brought further home once they arrive at Brown: Cedric seems immediately comfortable in his
new surroundings, while Barbara is at a loss over what she contributes. Cedric's strong sense of identity is also
reinforced when he is forced by the multicultural diversity seminar to focus on race as how he defines himself:
he has a clear disdain for this view, wanting to be judged for what's important to him such as his religious
beliefs and his achievements.
That said, this comfort and surety is only provisional in other aspects of Cedric's life: he is unsure of how well he can do academically and stacks the deck to protect himself in that regard. It is a choice that Cedric makes out of fear, and one he regrets later on. Again, Suskind makes no judgment as the author on whether or not this choice is correct. Further, Cedric makes note of various cultural references he doesn't know, to better fit into his new setting. However, he has a secret weapon: a common frame of reference that everybody finds entertaining, namely the world of celebrity and especially television.
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Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on A Hope in the Unseen".
. 09 May 2017