Deacon King Kong

by

James McBride

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Deacon King Kong: Chapter 3: Jet Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Sixteen people watched Sportcoat shoot Deems, but no one would say anything to the police. However, they didn’t have to because the police had an undercover detective on the scene. The detective’s name is Jet Hardman, and he is disguised as a janitor. Jet’s job is to spy on Deems, whom he’s watched for seven months. The police know that Deems works for a man named Joe Peck, a major figure in the Italian mob and their true target.
Everyone on the scene when Sportcoat shot Deems was presumably Black or at least not white. In the late 1960s, (and to this day) distrust toward the police among African American communities was common. Black people rarely felt that the police had their best interests at heart. Talking to the police usually meant more trouble rather than less, so keeping one’s mouth shut was often the best option. Additionally, this passage introduces the hierarchy of the drug trade. As feared as Deems is, he is a relatively low-level criminal compared to someone like Joe Peck.
Themes
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
Race and Power Theme Icon
Jet’s superior is Kevin “Potts” Mullen, an aging Irish sergeant. Potts is fond of Jet and tells him not to go into undercover work because it is difficult and dangerous. However, Jet couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be the first ever Black undercover cop in the Cause. All his life, he’s strived to be the first Black man to accomplish certain tasks, and he doesn’t plan to stop now.
Jet strives to break down the rigid barriers that existed in the 1960s for someone with his skin color. Unlike many characters in the Cause, he is a force of optimism when it comes to social progress in regard to race.
Themes
Race and Power Theme Icon
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
Despite his confidence in himself, Jet is still nervous because Deem Clemens is his first undercover assignment. Jet spends his time near a flagpole in the main plaza of the Causes, the same spot where Deems and his fellow dealers do the majority of their selling. While watching Deems, Jet notices Sportcoat approaching him and senses trouble. Sportcoat looks drunk, and Jet sees that he has a gun. Jet is concerned and unsure of what to do. He wants to prevent violence from occurring, but he also doesn’t want to blow his cover. As Sportcoat gets closer to Deems, Jet almost pulls out the gun he has strapped to his ankle but decides against it because such a move would immediately give him away. Instead, he decides to continue to monitor the situation to see what will happen next. 
Here, Jet faces a difficult situation. It is unclear whether he knows about Sportcoat and his relationship with Deems. Furthermore, even if he did, it’s unlikely that he would be able to predict what happens next. Additionally, the fact that Deems deals drugs near the flagpole is notable for two reasons. First, it highlights how prominent drugs are in the Cause—the flagpole is located in a popular area, which everyone walks by daily. Second, it associates dealing drugs with American iconography, as it is presumably the American flag that sits on top of the flagpole. The purpose of this association is ambiguous, but it certainly illustrates the prominence of drugs in American society.
Themes
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
When Sportcoat reaches Deems, who is standing around with members of his crew, he asks Deems about baseball. Previously, Deems was the best baseball player the Cause had ever seen, and Sportcoat was his coach. Sportcoat taught Deems everything he knows about baseball and turned him into the best player in the Cause. As such, Deems likes Sportcoat, but Sportcoat makes him uncomfortable, partially because he’s drunk all of the time.
Sportcoat is the closest thing Deems has to a father figure in the novel. After all, stereotypically, playing baseball is a classic American pastime between fathers and sons. Baseball is important to Sportcoat, not only because he enjoys it, but because he sees it as a noble alternative to dealing drugs. By this time, Black players regularly played for major league teams because it had been around two decades since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. 
Themes
Race and Power Theme Icon
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
Quotes
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When Sportcoat asks Deems why he stopped playing baseball, Deems tells Sportcoat that he’s found a better way to make money instead. In response, Sportcoat tells Deems that there is better way to make money than playing baseball. Deems condescendingly agrees with him in attempt to steer Sportcoat away from the subject. However, Sportcoat won’t drop it and continues to press Deems on why he isn’t still playing baseball. This angers Deems, and he tells Sportcoat to leave.
Achieving success in baseball is Sportcoat’s idea of achieving the American Dream. He believes that Deems has real talent and is upset that he’s squandering it. Meanwhile, Deems treats the old deacon poorly, showing little respect for the man who is the closest thing he has to a father.
Themes
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Jet is circling the scene and trying to get a view of what’s going on. In a last-ditch effort, he drops down to the ground to pretend to tie his shoe and watches as Sportcoat pulls out the gun. At the last minute, he yells to warn Deems. Still, Sportcoat is able to get a shot off, which hits Deems in the ear. Nonetheless, Jet’s warning is ultimately successful. because Sportcoat was originally aiming for Deems’s forehead.
Sportcoat’s actions are abrupt and shocking. Although Deems treats him poorly, Sportcoat’s response—if it can be read as a direct response—is, of course, way over the top. There are a few possibilities for why Sportcoat acts the way he does. First, he could just be going insane. Second, there is more that is motivating him than what is seen here. Or, third, it could be some combination of both.
Themes
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
As everyone flees the scene, Sportcoat moves to shoot Deems again. However, after seeing Deems on his hands and knees, Sportcoat has a sudden change of heart. Instead, he begins performing the Heimlich maneuver on Deems, who is choking on a sandwich he was eating before Sportcoat shot him. Although Sportcoat’s Heimlich maneuver is ultimately effective, from far away it looks like Deems is “on all fours being humped like a dog from the back by an old man.” Soon after, the police show up and arrest Deems and Jet, although Sportcoat manages to flee the scene by escaping to a nearby building. Jet’s partner, Potts, arrests him in an attempt to maintain Jet’s undercover status.
As the scene progresses, it is clear that Sportcoat is not in his right mind. At the very least, he is conflicted in how he feels about Deems. Stylistically, one feature of the novel is that it quickly alternates between serious violence and farcical comedy, which can be seen here as Sportcoat helps Deems.
Themes
Substance Abuse Theme Icon