Cotton Comes to Harlem Summary
Chester Himes

Everything you need to understand or teach Cotton Comes to Harlem by Chester Himes.

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Cotton Comes to Harlem Summary

The novel's main theme is expressed indirectly by the frequent scenes of horribly intense violence and directly by the remarks of one of Himes's two black detective heroes, when Grave Digger Jones explains that only three things can be done about Harlem's high crime rate. Either the criminals must be made to pay for their crimes or the people must be paid enough to live decently. The other choice is to let the people devour each other. As the criminally corrupt white power structure (represented by Colonel Robert L. Calhoun and his cronies) is unwilling to undertake either of the first two alternatives, Harlemites are left to fend for themselves in a grim struggle for survival. The only people willing and able to maintain even a semblance of order are the two black detectives.

However, the troubling brutality the detectives must use to carry out their duties compromises their...

(read more from the Short Guide)

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Cotton Comes to Harlem Short Guide