A Hope in the Unseen

by

Ron Suskind

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Cedric’s Mother / Barbara Jennings Character Analysis

Barbara Jennings is Cedric’s mother and the most important person in his life. She raised Cedric on her own because the boy’s father, Cedric Gilliam, wanted nothing to do with a child, and because he spent most of the boy’s childhood in and out of prison for taking and dealing drugs. Barbara focused all of her energy and attention on her son, and they spent most of their time at church, where Barbara serves as a missionary and Cedric used to sing in the choir. She even left her job during the first years of Cedric’s life, going on welfare for five years, so that she could spend all of her time with her son. This close relationship between mother and son was strained when Cedric went off to college at Brown, as Barbara no longer had anyone to take care of. She began to feel depressed, and mismanaged the small amount of money she had, neglecting to pay bills and her rent, until she was nearly evicted for nonpayment. Cedric’s first year in college is a profound learning experience for Barbara, who must redefine herself after 18 years of centering her world and sense of self around raising and protecting her son. After a painful eviction, she eventually begins to take care of herself, pay off debts, and explore the possibility of a social life, which helps her reconnect with her son.

Cedric’s Mother / Barbara Jennings Quotes in A Hope in the Unseen

The A Hope in the Unseen quotes below are all either spoken by Cedric’s Mother / Barbara Jennings or refer to Cedric’s Mother / Barbara Jennings. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Race, Racism, and Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Broadway Books edition of A Hope in the Unseen published in 1998.
Chapter 2 Quotes

“Faith is taking the last $10 from your checking account and saying, ‘God, I give this to you, because I have nothing but faith, I live on faith, and I know in my heart that you’ll bring it back to me in ways too grand and too many for me to even imagine.’”

Related Characters: Bishop Long (speaker), Cedric’s Mother / Barbara Jennings
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

“How can I compete? It’s like I’m living in a refrigerator!”

Related Characters: Cedric Jennings (speaker), Cedric’s Mother / Barbara Jennings
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:
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Cedric’s Mother / Barbara Jennings Character Timeline in A Hope in the Unseen

The timeline below shows where the character Cedric’s Mother / Barbara Jennings appears in A Hope in the Unseen. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Something to Push Against
Class vs. Wealth Theme Icon
Cedric enters the apartment he shares with his mother, Barbara—it’s small, and there isn’t always heat, but it is one of the nicest places... (full context)
Religion and Hope Theme Icon
Anger Theme Icon
...expresses his fear that he will not be accepted to the MIT summer program, and Barbara tells him to pray about it, and to have faith in himself. Barbara’s faith in... (full context)
Chapter 2: Don’t Let Them Hurt Your Children
Religion and Hope Theme Icon
It is rent day for Barbara Jennings, and she must take two buses across town to hand-deliver her check for $445.22.... (full context)
Class vs. Wealth Theme Icon
Anger Theme Icon
Barbara also thinks about her life: how she was expected to raise her brothers and sisters... (full context)
Class vs. Wealth Theme Icon
Religion and Hope Theme Icon
It wasn’t long after having Cedric that Barbara found the church. A friend dragged the depressed young mother to a service, and the... (full context)
Class vs. Wealth Theme Icon
When Cedric was a baby, Barbara decided to quit her job and go on welfare, so that she could be with... (full context)
Religion and Hope Theme Icon
When Cedric was eight years old, Barbara got a call from Cedric Gilliam, asking to meet his son. The boy had regular... (full context)
Religion and Hope Theme Icon
Barbara and Cedric followed a path that was common among African Americans in the inner city... (full context)
Class vs. Wealth Theme Icon
Religion and Hope Theme Icon
Anger Theme Icon
Money was tight in the Jennings household: Barbara made $5 per hour, and she gave as much as she could to Scripture Cathedral... (full context)
Race, Racism, and Identity Theme Icon
Anger Theme Icon
...much more confident. Cedric felt ignored and insulted by his father; not long after that, Barbara began to receive calls from the principal of Jefferson Junior High about her son’s misbehavior.... (full context)
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Back in the present, Barbara comes home after a long day of work, traveling to hand in her rent check,... (full context)
Chapter 3: Rise and Shine
Academic Support Systems Theme Icon
It is March, and Cedric is up and out of the house early. His mother is worried about him, but he says he prefers to get started on his schoolwork,... (full context)
Religion and Hope Theme Icon
 Barbara is at Scripture Cathedral on Thursday night, as usual, but she doesn’t see Cedric. He... (full context)
Chapter 5: To Him Who Endureth
Class vs. Wealth Theme Icon
Religion and Hope Theme Icon
Barbara thinks about the day that Cedric bounded out of his room to tell her that... (full context)
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In the weeks after Cedric receives his acceptance letter, Barbara wonders how she will help him navigate this new world. When Cedric receives his grades... (full context)
Religion and Hope Theme Icon
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...his powerful and honest speech. He finally makes his way to his family, where his mother engulfs him in a hug and reminds him that he is still her baby. (full context)
Chapter 6: The Pretender
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...a concert series with three of Cedric’s favorite musicians—Patti LaBelle, TCL, and Mary J. Blige—but Barbara shuts this down immediately, deciding that she cannot take the risk only a month before... (full context)
Race, Racism, and Identity Theme Icon
Religion and Hope Theme Icon
...Cedric mentions that he is a man, now that he is 18 years old, but Barbara reminds him that a man is someone who takes care of himself “physically, financially, and... (full context)
Religion and Hope Theme Icon
Their conversation moves on to some young women that Barbara and Cedric know from church, who they acknowledge are very beautiful. Barbara warns Cedric about... (full context)
Race, Racism, and Identity Theme Icon
...will never fall in love, that he wants to be alone and possibly adopt children. Barbara tells him that he can send them to her to raise, and is again hit... (full context)
Chapter 7: Goodbye to Yesterday
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...and finally decides he must leave without it and buy a new one at Brown. Barbara is feeling unsentimental as she looks at the nearly empty room and thinks about how... (full context)
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As Cedric and Barbara drive out of D.C. towards New England, they begin to talk about school breaks. Barbara... (full context)
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After the long drive, Barbara and Cedric get a late start to the day, and it is nearly lunchtime when... (full context)
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With Barbara gone, Cedric sits on his freshly made bed and begins to talk to Rob, his... (full context)
Chapter 8: Fierce Intimacies
Class vs. Wealth Theme Icon
Anger Theme Icon
...was strong and often backed up by violence, Cedric also had daily support from his mother and Bishop Long, as well as the constant reminder of the negative consequences of those... (full context)
Chapter 9: Bill Payers on Parade
Race, Racism, and Identity Theme Icon
Class vs. Wealth Theme Icon
Barbara has made the trip up to Providence as well, and has been waiting for this... (full context)
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Barbara scolds Cedric for not having his hair cut for her arrival, but he tells her... (full context)
Race, Racism, and Identity Theme Icon
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Cedric, Barbara, and Neddy spend the day outside of the Brown campus, at a local mall where... (full context)
Chapter 10: A Bursting Heart
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...Cedric writes about his family and how important his academic success has been to his mother, who lost her opportunity to access higher education when she had her daughter at a... (full context)
Race, Racism, and Identity Theme Icon
...They were suspected of being involved in the robbery of an armored truck, and Zayn’s mother spent a year in jail without being charged for the crime. In the meantime, Zayd... (full context)
Class vs. Wealth Theme Icon
Academic Support Systems Theme Icon
...second time they have met face to face. Korb talks about the sacrifices that Cedric’s mother has made for him throughout her life, especially when he was young and she went... (full context)
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...Dr. Korb makes a toast to their special guest, he then encourages Cedric to call Barbara, who reminds him to watch what others around him are doing and simply imitate them.... (full context)
Chapter 12: Let the Colors Run
Race, Racism, and Identity Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Barbara is talking to one of the middle managers at work about Cedric, and when she... (full context)
Race, Racism, and Identity Theme Icon
Religion and Hope Theme Icon
Barbara chats with her other coworkers—black women like herself—about the possibility of a slave museum. The... (full context)
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When Barbara gets home from church, she finds a Notice of Eviction in her pile of mail.... (full context)
Chapter 13: A Place Up Ahead
Race, Racism, and Identity Theme Icon
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...to feel, and wonders why. He also wonders if his father is still using drugs—Cedric’s mother says that there are plenty of drugs to be found in prison. Cedric also begins... (full context)
Chapter 14: Meeting the Man
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Back in Washington, D.C., Barbara is making a last-minute attempt to find money to cover her back rent and penalties.... (full context)
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Barbara feels ashamed, but she has to tell Cedric, because if Minister Borden doesn’t come up... (full context)
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At 12:40 P.M., Barbara opens the door to Steve Turner from the U.S. Marshals, who has come to evict... (full context)
Race, Racism, and Identity Theme Icon
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Steve Turner’s assistant is guarding Barbara’s belongings outside on the street, because until the move is finished, she and Cedric are... (full context)
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...only a few minutes earlier, pitches in with another $40, and the movers leave, pacified. Barbara goes back into her apartment, happy to have a place to live, even though she... (full context)
Race, Racism, and Identity Theme Icon
Class vs. Wealth Theme Icon
Anger Theme Icon
In the days since the near-eviction, Cedric has not talked to Barbara at all. He is angry, and this anger has overtaken the guilt he has been... (full context)
Anger Theme Icon
...is proud to have completed his first year at Brown, and he knows that his mother would be happy to know about his grades, but he does not want to tell... (full context)
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Cedric goes to church on Sunday, without Barbara, who is sleeping in. He does not want to separate from the church entirely, and... (full context)
Epilogue
Race, Racism, and Identity Theme Icon
Religion and Hope Theme Icon
...stayed clean, and he is trying to repair his relationship with his son, albeit slowly. Barbara was eventually evicted, and the church did not come to save her a second time;... (full context)