A Hope in the Unseen follows Cedric Jennings through various obstacles on his path to success as a young African American male in the mid 1990's. Ron Suskind does a stellar job creating the intricate background for the events of the novel. Residing in the inner city of Washington D.C., Cedric must overcome a culture of malaise where an intelligent black male is often ridiculed with terms such as "cracker" and "white." The teachers have no faith in the future of their students, and most parents are proud when their children graduate from high school. In this environment, Cedric hopes not only to succeed, but also help elevate himself to a higher level of learning, the Ivy League schools.
Suskind chooses to open his novel with the chapter, "Something to Push Against." It is a fitting chapter to open a novel about the trials and tribulations Cedric will have to face in order to reach his dream. The scene opens at an award assembly to honor the few distinguished students of Ballou High School. Unfortunately, the assembly basically made sure "the whiteys' now had faces. The honor students were hazed for months afterwards (Suskind 3)." In addition to showing the adversity Cedric faces from his peers, the opening chapter also portrays Cedric positively. "Cedric Jennings often retreats [to Mr. Taylor's classroom to practice SAT problems (Suskind 4)]." Unfortunately, one person can only be so positive with a negative world surrounding them. Cedric must cope with drug dealers, fatal shootings, poverty, and a hostile school environment, something most college students rarely experience. His school is a war zone, where the speaker system announces, "Attention Students. We are in Code Blue (Suskind 15)." This use of militaristic language shows the fear and anxiety the students are faced with each and every day. The chapter closes with Cedric remembering the time a gun was pulled on him by a boy who had seen him win some money at the assembly. Cedric was scared to death,...
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