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Study Guide: A Hope In the Unseen by Ron Suskind - Online Notes

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14. Meeting the Man

Summary

As the school year comes to an end, Cedric attends several parties without drinking alcohol, and sees the Fugees in concert. Now feeling more secure socially at Brown, he focuses on making sure he fits academically as well. Cedric pleads his case to his Psychology professor, who gives him useful advice on taking notes in class and offers to pass Cedric for the class if he passes the final exam. For the Education seminar he must write a tenpage paper and goes to the library to start it one afternoon. He made his peace with Mr. Fleming, realizing the difficulties the teacher faces and forgiving his initial opinions of the man. After much thought, he begins his paper and finds it isn't inspirational but fits into the kind of intellectual inquiry expected of him.

Back in his dorm room, Rob is hanging out with his friend Caroline. The relationship with Cedric had gone bad again in the past week, most notably in the sink they share that both now refuse to clean. Instead, they've both been adding to the mess with various substances. The next day Rob takes his chemistry final and relaxes that night at Cafe Paragon, noting how surreal the year had been. The following morning his father arrives to take him home. Rob says goodbye to Cedric, but Cedric does not seem to hear him.


Cedric does thank Rob as he leaves, but is not sure if Rob heard. Later, Cedric speaks to his mother about failing God's test regarding Rob; Barbara assures him that God will simply keep on putting the same test until he gets it right. Zayd drops by to say goodbye, giving Cedric a hug. On Friday, Cedric packs for his return to Washington, D.C. After shipping boxes UPS, he finds messages from Chiniqua Milligan and Molly Olsen, who writes that they will go dancing next year. He finishes his packing, calls a cab, and heads home to D.C.

On a Monday in mid-May, Barbara goes to the United Planning Organization for help in paying her back rent. Though she needs $2,790, she is only offered $491 by the UPO. When she gets home, she calls Minister Borden at Scripture Cathedral; she told him about his problems the previous week, and now explains that she needs the money in two hours. Soon after, Cedric comes out of his bedroom and asks what Barbara is doing home. She tells him they're about to be evicted and how much is owed. She also tells him about chest pains and numbness which she's been suffering, and how she was told to see a doctor about it. Barbara then calls Neddy, who comes over. Cedric is now infuriated at his mother, finding her guilty of so much pride that she didn't tell him or Neddy until the problem hurts them all.

At 12:40 PM, U.S. Marshall Steve Turner arrives with the landlord's moving crew to serve the eviction notice. Barbara insists that a minister is coming with the money, and Cedric blocks the door to his room so the moving men cannot go in. The neighbors are watching the items piling on the street, waiting for their chance to take what they can once the eviction is complete. Minister Borden shows up before the eviction is completed, with a cashier's check for $2,750. It's not made out to the proper place, though, so he goes to the bank to correct that and offers $80 for the crew to move all the belongings back in the apartment. Borden is short $40 for the workmen, but Neddy covers the remainder. Neddy also offers to pay back Minister Borden with a loan she will take out from her credit union, which she and Barbara will then pay back a little at a time.

One day, Cedric goes to visit his father Cedric Gilliam at Lorton Correctional Institution. Cedric asks his father if he ever loved his mother, or if it was just a sex thing. When Gilliam can't answer, Cedric decides it was just sex. Gilliam talks about the drug treatment program he's in and when their time is over, Cedric Senior promises to call when he gets out of prison. Cedric Junior believes it was good for them to talk and thinks his father isn't so awful, which makes him feel good to believe.

Cedric does not talk to his mother for two weeks, even when his grades arrived and he finds out he passed all his classes. Two weeks after the good news, Cedric goes to Scripture Cathedral and asks Bishop Long for permission to leave the church. Long gives his permission and tells Cedric he always has a home there. Cedric goes to church the following Sunday and tells one of the church ladies, Gloria Hobbs, that he's worried about his mother. Returning home, he realizes that while there are many things he's moving away from now, his mother is what made such a move possible. While Barbara has been giving her whole life, it is now apparent that she needs to learn how to receive as well. Thursday night, Barbara returns from church and says she spoke with Gloria. Cedric assures his mother that she doesn't have to do all the caring, that he's able to do so now as well, and they hug.

Notes

When Cedric goes to the library to write his Education assignment, there is a great deal of attention paid to his surroundings and his peaceful frame of mind. We understand his ability to write a strong analytical paper - one that he believes will earn him an A - is not only a triumph for him academically, but also a sign of his emotional maturity and continued personal growth. This is repeated in the closing paragraph of the Epilogue, where he discovers he no longer has anything to push against. It should also be noted that Cedric's change in opinion towards Fleming is sudden and not explained in a dramatically satisfying manner, likely due to the constraints of writing the book.

The goodbye between Rob and Cedric is the only time when the changing of narrative perspectives is used in a dramatic fashion: first Rob's perspective where he is unsure if Cedric heard his goodbye, then cutting to Cedric's perspective to show that he had indeed heard and responds in kind. While an unusual choice in the context of this book, it stylistically reinforces the sense of a chasm between them - the gap in how each sees the other - embodied by the cut in viewpoint.

The meeting between Cedric Jennings and Cedric Gilliam affirms the personal development of the previous chapter, as Cedric Junior comes to terms with his father and that part within him which comes from his paternity. Cedric Junior is surprised that he feels no anger towards the man, but welcomes that absence. For his part, Cedric Senior makes good on his vow to change his life for the better, and in this present-day decision atones for the wrongs of his own past.

The near-eviction of Barbara and Cedric is a fitting climax to the book as a whole. It brings back fears from the old life which Cedric had thought he'd left behind - financial woes, a sense of powerlessness, and tensions between himself and his mother regarding trust. However, unlike the past, Cedric is able to stand up for himself, as seen by his confrontation with the moving crew, and is now in a position to speak to his mother on equal terms. Barbara's heart problem emphasizes her frailty and her need for care, when all her life she provided such care instead of receiving it. Accepting the loan from Minister Borden and then Neddie, she re-learns the importance of humility and depending on others. In her final conversation with Cedric at the end of the book, she also acknowledges that Cedric is mature enough to care for her now, just as she cared for him and helped him move forward in his life.


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