San Francisco has lost its charm for Maya now that she has tasted independence. In addition, adults no longer seem as smart or inaccessible to her. Bailey has changed too. He has new friends, wears "zoot" suits and wide brimmed hats, and sips gin. He is indifferent to Maya and is no longer enamored of Vivian. Mother and son, however, seem to be caught in an "Oedipal skein," as Maya calls it. They cannot get along, but they do not like to be apart. When Bailey acquires a "withered white prostitute," Vivian finally throws him out, and Bailey moves into a room rented by his girlfriend. The next day Maya leaves a red-eyed Vivian to meet an equally red-eyed Bailey. He explains that Vivian has already settled things between them. She has even promised to get him a job as a dining-car waiter on the Southern Pacific. Maya, who feels completely left out of this agonized struggle between her mother and her brother, can think of nothing to say; therefore, she simply leaves in silence.


It is clear that Maya's experiences in the junkyard have greatly changed her. Arriving in San Francisco once again, she is not longer in awe of the city or the adults who live there. She also begins to see through Bailey, realizing that he has an oedipal complex. He loves his mother to the exclusion of common sense; and Vivian seems to have an equally destructive love for Bailey. Maya compares herself to Switzerland during World War II; she is a silent, neutral spectator. She loves them both, but is not a part of their explosive relationship.



With Bailey gone off to work on the railroad, Maya is alone and miserable. She decides to get a job on a streetcar, even though Vivian tells her they do not hire black workers.

Ignoring her mother, Maya goes to apply for a position as the conductor, but the receptionist quickly and rudely brushes her off. Maya tries not to take the rejection personally and decides she will continue to try and get the job. She spends three weeks doggedly pursuing the position. She even lies on her application, listing her age as nineteen and saying she has worked as a companion and driver for a Mrs. Annie Henderson, a white woman in Arkansas.

Amazingly, Maya's persistence pays off. She becomes the first black woman to be hired by the streetcar company. Her shifts are scheduled poorly and make her life difficult, but she does not let it get her down. When school starts up again, Maya has matured so much that she no longer fits in. When she begins to cut class, Vivian finds out and reproaches her for not being woman enough to admit what she wants. She tells her daughter that if she wants to quit school, she should just quit. After Vivian's talk, Maya stops cutting classes, for she realizes that she is in control of her life and her destiny. She also believes that she has finally conquered the "tripartite crossfire of masculine prejudice, white illogical hate, and Black lack of power."


This chapter portrays another conclusive moment of growth in Maya. She doggedly pursues a job set aside for white girls and finally succeeds in being hired as a conductor on the streetcar. As a result, she feels mature and accomplished; she also believes she has conquered masculine prejudice and white hatred.

After she returns to school in the fall, Maya finds that she no longer fits in with her peers. When she begins cutting classes, Vivian suggests that she simply quit school. The talk with her mother makes Maya realize that she is in control of her own destiny, and she does not want to be a drop-out. As a result, she quits cutting classes.

Cite this page:

Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on A Long Way Gone".