Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers

by

Imbolo Mbue

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Behold the Dreamers: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
 Halfway into Neni’s stay in Southampton, Vince walks into his bedroom and jumps on his newly made bed while Neni fluffs the pillows. He tells her, “Today’s the day.” When she registers confusion, he realizes that Jende hasn’t told her about Vince’s plans to leave law school. He decides not to say any more about it. Around five that evening, Vince and Cindy leave to meet Clark for dinner at a restaurant in Montauk. The next morning, Neni sees nothing of Vince and very little of Cindy, who declines her breakfast and lunch and spends much of the day on the phone, begging someone to be reasonable and think of the consequences of their actions.
Vince jumps on the bed, without much consideration for the fact that Neni has just made it, like a careless child. Vince is eager to establish his adult independence but, in some ways, still behaves like a child. He tells his parents about his plans to drop out of law school at dinner and then disappears, probably to return to Manhattan. Cindy’s response to her distress over her son is to starve herself, which will become a recurring habit.
Themes
Parental Expectations vs. Personal Ambitions Theme Icon
Neni calls Jende later that evening to see if he knows what’s going on and he advises Neni to mind her own business. Still, Neni’s determined to find out what’s going on. Mighty could only tell her that his parents and Vince are fighting and that Vince won’t say anything else to him about it until Mighty returns to Manhattan. Two nights later, though, Neni overhears an argument between Cindy and Clark that reveals Vince’s plans to drop out of law school and move to India. Cindy blames it on her and Clark’s inability to provide Vince with a happy life. Clark becomes frustrated with what seems like blame from his wife and leaves her crying alone in the kitchen.
Mighty becomes a source of information for both Neni and Jende over the course of the novel about what’s going on in the Edwards household, though his understanding of his family’s arguments is limited. Cindy is right to think that Vince is unhappy with the life that she and Clark have provided because he resents how they use material comforts to justify their control over him and his future plans.
Themes
Parental Expectations vs. Personal Ambitions Theme Icon
Family and Belonging Theme Icon
Neni silently steps into the kitchen, afraid of startling Cindy, and stoops close to her. She tells Cindy that she hopes that she and Mr. Edwards will get things sorted soon. Neni smells alcohol emanating from Cindy’s mouth, along with her slurred words. She asks Cindy if she’d like some water. Cindy asks instead for a glass of wine, which Neni dutifully pours. Cindy talks about how everyone thinks they have the right to treat her however they wish. First, it was her father who raped her mother. Then, it was the government, which forced her mother to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. Finally, her mother thought she had the right to beat Cindy and curse at her because she looked at her daughter and was reminded of her rapist.
Neni learns why Cindy is so insecure and eager to belong: she was never wanted in the first place. As a result, she’s spent her life being the scapegoat for other people’s pain. First, Cindy becomes the scapegoat for her mother’s pain—the trauma of her rape and her inability to control her own reproduction—and later, the scapegoat for Vince’s dissatisfaction with the life that Cindy and Clark have provided for him. Clark’s lack of empathy toward his wife reinforce her feeling of not mattering or even of being outright unwanted.
Themes
Family and Belonging Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Neni turns away, not wanting Cindy to see her look of surprise. She can’t give her a hug, but she also can’t figure out what to say. Cindy goes on to say that Clark thinks that he has the right to love her less than his work. And now, Vince thinks he has the right to abandon her. Cindy’s cries grow louder. She finishes her glass of wine and says that, though she doesn’t want Vince to move to India, she’ll summon the strength to support him even if he’s not doing what she wants. However, she can’t bear the thought of him being so far away and thinks that, if anything happens to him, it’ll kill her.
Neni doesn’t want to reveal her surprise about Cindy’s origins because it would be yet another indication that Cindy is another person behind her façade. She wants to comfort Cindy but feels that she can’t due to how it would disrupt the air of formality that she must maintain as a servant. Cindy’s concern over losing her child reinforces her fears of abandonment.
Themes
Parental Expectations vs. Personal Ambitions Theme Icon
Family and Belonging Theme Icon
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