“Break It Down” is a HBW Literary Blog initiative that strives to offer critical interpretations of song lyrics, excerpts from novels, and poems.
This week, an excerpt from Apex Hides The Hurt, a novel written by Colson Whitehead, was analyzed. The excerpt comes from Chapter 2.
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Apex Hides the Hurt analysis– Chapter 2
At first he kept his mouth shut because he still saw the job as an interim gig. The unnamed narrator does not take the job as a “nomenclature consultant” too seriously. The work environment does not suit him. In his opinion, the job is temporary; however, the he ends up being wildly successful and sought after in the field. He wasn’t cut out for corporate life. He believed himself to be of a different caliber than those men. Jocky white guys. He didn’t need the same things. The cheap posturing. The signature colognes. The obscure wafting. The narrator, a black man, does not fit in with his colleagues. The particular sentence demonstrates how the unnamed narrator has different personal values in the world. Even though, in the work environment, he may resemble the men in dress and speech, internally, his race and social position inform a very different outlook. As a black man in a corporate environment, he is physically different from the men and views the world from a different vantage point. They scrambled and wanted to be heard by the men who wrote performance reviews and determined bonuses. His colleagues display a level of ambition in the workplace that the unnamed narrator does not. He is not motivated by the financial splendors of corporate America or being on the “fast track” in his profession. While his colleagues seemed to be guided by blind ambition of having a “corner office,” the unnamed narrator takes his time at work in stride. They wore suspenders. So he sat and watched and whatever names he had he kept to himself. He listened. And if what they came up with was terrible, was prosaic, or even more unforgivable, something else’s name, he figured that’s the way things work in this crazy job. No skin off his back. Their hapless little creations flopped around like fish on asphalt and he couldn’t care less. Tension exists between the narrator and how he relates to his colleagues, his bosses, and his job as a whole. The narrator may represent a larger disconnect of young black professionals from the day-to-day activities in the work place and how these interactions promote capital gains over true intellectual and social development. He does not take the people he works with too serious. He is going through the motions, but seems to not be fulfilled by the tasks he’s supposed to complete at work.