Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers

by

Imbolo Mbue

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Behold the Dreamers: Chapter 27 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next time Jende sees Clark, it seems that the latter has aged ten years in seven days. While driving Clark to his new workplace at Barclays, “the British giant” that bought Lehman Brothers, Jende apologizes for all that’s happened. Clark thanks him for his sympathy. For the rest of the week, Jende drives Clark in silence—from the Sapphire Building to Barclays or to the “Lehman-turned-Barclays office tower on Seventh Avenue.” Clark only offers brusque greetings, orders to hurry, or reminders to pick up Cindy or to drop of Mighty. Once, he barked at Jende to cut around another car, but he usually just sits in the backseat, sweating, or mumbling to himself when he isn’t on the phone talking about derivatives and regulations, things that Jende doesn’t understand. What Jende does understand is the “misery and exhaustion” in Clark’s voice.
The signs of Clark’s distress are increasing. The silence in which Jende drives Clark around Manhattan contrasts with the increasing complexity of Clark’s language, which is supposed to explain how Lehman Brothers got into its mess; however, this language is useless in fixing the problem. Clark is miserable because the failure that he warned Tom would ensue has resulted, and it’s now too late to do anything about it. However, he continues working, perhaps to avoid feeling incompetent.
Themes
The Sustainability of the American Dream Theme Icon
Class and Interdependency Theme Icon
One day, while Jende is driving Cindy and her friend Cheri to visit Cheri’s mother in Stamford, Cindy talks about how Clark behaved on the eve of Lehman Brothers’ collapse. He arrived home early two nights before the news broke, sat on the edge of their bed with his head bowed, and didn’t move or speak. Cindy had a mammogram the next morning, so she wasn’t in the mood for small talk either and didn’t ask her husband why he looked so despondent.
Cindy’s lack of concern for her husband is probably the product of adapting to his similar attitude of indifference toward his family. She reduces an expression of concern over his distress to “small talk,” and the gulf in communication that exists between Cindy and Clark reveals a hopelessness in their marriage.
Themes
Family and Belonging Theme Icon
Cheri tells Cindy about constantly checking her financial portfolio. She balked when her husband suggested that they get rid of their maid for a few months to save. She says that things are getting “scary” “when people start talking about flying coach and selling vacation homes.” Cindy agrees that Anna isn’t going anywhere either; she wouldn’t know what to do without her.
Cindy and Cheri’s worries over how they'll be impacted by the crisis exhibit how their money insulates them from the threats of poverty that will face Jende and Leah. Though Cindy grew up poor, she has become so accustomed to financial privilege that she may not know how to cope without it.
Themes
The Sustainability of the American Dream Theme Icon
Class and Interdependency Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Cindy tells Cheri about how people like them will lose money in the short term but will be all right in the end, unlike “those poor devils on the streets.” She says that she hasn’t spoken to Clark much since the night he returned home looking defeated, and that she went three days without seeing him last week. She worries that he might be cheating on her, though she can’t bring herself to say so. Cheri assures her that no such thing is going on.
Cindy’s description of those from the middle- and working-classes as “poor devils in the streets” intimates that she remains insulated from the worst aspects of the crisis while the majority of people are left vulnerable on the outside, shut out from the privileges that protect Cheri and Cindy.
Themes
The Sustainability of the American Dream Theme Icon
Class and Interdependency Theme Icon
Family and Belonging Theme Icon
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Jende thinks about the previous night, when, after work, Clark called his friend Frank to see if it might be time for him to get away from Wall Street. He’s beginning to question the meaning of his life and finds it strange that he’s beginning to sound like Vince. This prompts Jende to wonder how Vince is doing in India. He also thinks about Leah. He worries about her high blood pressure and swelling feet. One day, Jende dials the work number, expecting to get a voice message, but she answers the phone. She announces that she was laid off but figures that she can use it as an excuse to take a month off and relax. She’ll go to see her sister in Florida before applying for new jobs. With over twenty years of experience, she has no doubt of finding a new position.
Clark is beginning to realize that all of his work to save the company was futile, and that it’s pointless for him to continue to work so hard. Jende worries more about Leah than anyone else because she depended squarely on Clark as Jende does. Leah, like many Americans, didn’t understand how dire the financial collapse is. She believes that, with her work experience, she’ll easily be able to find another job. However, there won’t be additional jobs to find, and she discounts the problem of age discrimination in employment.
Themes
The Sustainability of the American Dream Theme Icon
Class and Interdependency Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The next day, while dropping off and picking up the Edwardses, Jende thinks about how strange it is that Americans are talking about an “economic crisis,” a phrase that was very familiar to Cameroonians in the late 1980s, when the country entered a prolonged economic downturn. Jende is thankful that he still has a job, especially in lieu of so many job losses. (And there would be more losses. People’s lives would change in unprecedented ways: retirement savings would be halved, “college funds would be withdrawn”; dream weddings, vacations, and homes would be deferred.)
Jende thinks this economic situation is “strange” because he never thought that a country as prosperous as the United States could face such a dire circumstance. Because he’s uneducated, he doesn’t know about the Great Depression. He also doesn’t know that the country faced a similar depression in 1987, around the same time that Cameroon suffered from its own crisis.
Themes
The Sustainability of the American Dream Theme Icon
Class and Interdependency Theme Icon
Related Quotes