Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers

by

Imbolo Mbue

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Behold the Dreamers: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
That summer, New York is unbearably hot. Clark tells Jende that he can take a paid vacation in the first two weeks of August. The Edwardses (mainly Cindy and the boys) will be spending late July and nearly all of August in Southampton. Jende knows that he’ll call the livery cab company that he used to work for and get shifts so that he can add to the funds for his deportation case.
For Jende, summer is no invitation to take a vacation, which he can’t afford. However, Clark will also be spending most of his time in the city. Though he has the financial means to take a vacation, the increasing pressures at Lehman Brothers don’t allow him the time.
Themes
The Modern Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Class and Interdependency Theme Icon
Clark says that Cindy will need a housekeeper for four weeks and that Jende should ask Neni if she would like to take on the job for extra money. Jende says that Neni would be “very grateful” for that. He figures that it’ll offer Neni a welcome break from “feeding and bathing incapacitated senior citizens” as well as the prospect of earning more money in four weeks than she had in three months. So, she agrees to skip the second semester of school and go to Southampton. She calls Cindy to accept the position, and Cindy fills her in on her duties. Neni mentions that she’s four months pregnant, but insists that it won’t be a problem for her. Cindy says that it won’t be a problem for her either. She tells Neni that she’ll accompany Anna on the Long Island Railroad to the Hamptons to get acquainted with Cindy and the job.
The housekeeping job invites Neni into the Edwardses’ lives. The families are beginning to be codependent on each other—the Edwardses depend on the Jongas for service and to keep their secrets, while the Jongas depend on the Edwardses for sustenance. However, Jende accepts the position on Neni’s behalf without first asking his wife if she’d like to work as Cindy’s maid. His action is part of a pattern of behavior in which he makes decisions for Neni without her consent. Though Neni agrees to perform the job, one wonders if she would have been as willing if Jende hadn’t already accepted.
Themes
Class and Interdependency Theme Icon
On Neni’s first day on the housekeeping job, she descends the steps into the subway with Jende to begin the first leg of her journey to the Hamptons. He tells her to do only what they say to do exactly as they say to do it. She’s amused by his concern, but he insists that it’s no “laughing matter” and that the Edwardses are their “bread and tea.” Neni reminds him that she knows how to behave among rich people, having come from a family that “used to be rich in the eighties and early nineties.” However, that was long in the past. Neni’s father was eventually forced out of his lucrative job at the seaport by a Bamileke boss who wanted his tribesmen to take his job. These days, he’s retired and lives on “a meager pension.”
Jende conveys to Neni how dependent they are on the Edwardses without bringing up the matter of how hard it would be to get another job like this one. He knows that they best way to stay in the family’s favor is to be exacting to their standards. Neni believes that she understands, due to having been rich in Cameroon, though she doesn’t account for the vast disparity in how wealth is defined in Cameroon compared to the United States. Her father’s fall from grace will mirror Clark’s loss of his job at Lehman Brothers.
Themes
Class and Interdependency Theme Icon