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Amiable With Big Teeth Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 33 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Amiable With Big Teeth.
This section contains 618 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Amiable With Big Teeth Summary & Study Guide Description

Amiable With Big Teeth Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Amiable With Big Teeth by Claude McKay.

The following edition of this book was used to create this study guide: McKay, Claude. Amiable with Big Teeth. Penguin Classics, 2017.

The novel is written in the past tense and is told by an omniscient third-person narrator. The story opens in Harlem, New York City in the year 1936. Italy is attempting to conquer the sovereign African country of Ethiopia, and Tekla Alamaya, a diplomatic envoy from Ethiopia, has come to the United States to solicit funding from African-Americans for Ethiopia’s defense. He is welcomed in Harlem by a parade organized by the Harlem-based organization Hands to Ethiopia. Alamaya later has dinner with the leaders of the Hands to Ethiopia, which includes Pablo Peixota, Newton Castle, Dorsey Flagg, and Reverend Zebulon Trawl. After the dinner, Alamaya makes his first social appearance in Harlem, and he meets Maxim Tasan, a communist who is secretly attempting to co-opt the Ethiopia issue in order to propagate communist influence throughout Harlem.

Newton Castle, a leader of the hands to Ethiopia who is a communist and a secret ally of Maxim Tasan, attempts to oust Dorsey Flagg from the Hands to Ethiopia because Flagg is so anti-Soviet. Castle accuses Flagg of being a fascist, but his proposal to oust Flagg is vetoed by Pablo Peixota, the chairman of the group. Meanwhile, Peixota’s daughter, Seraphine, begins to fall in love with Alamaya. She proceeds to court him, and Alamaya begins to fall in love with Seraphine as well. Just as Alamaya begins his tour of the United States, a communist newspaper called the Labor Herald claims that he is a charlatan and has no real authority from Ethiopia to act as a diplomat. Alamaya returns to Harlem to refute these claims.

However, Alamaya realizes that he has somehow lost the letter of authority written by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie. Unbeknownst to Alamaya, the letter was stolen by Maxim Tasan. Alamaya has no choice but to meet with maxim Tasan and agree to form an alliance with him in exchange for the Labor Herald recanting its accusations against Alamaya. Later, Pablo Peixota is at a bar called the Merry-Go-Round when a communist demonstration led by Newton Castle forms outside the establishment. The demonstration is counter-protested by the Pan-African advocacy group, led by Professor Koazhy. Police arrive in the general chaos, and Peixota is mistakenly implicated in the Merry-Go-Round’s illegal gambling operation.

Alamaya tells Seraphine that he can no longer pursue their courtship, as he must focus more strongly on his mission. Seraphine feels distraught and decides to move out of Harlem to live in downtown Manhattan. Her mother warns her against associating with white men and communists, as they will try to take advantage of her. Seraphine does not heed this warning, and she becomes an employee of an organization called Interlink, with which Maxim Tasan is associated. After drunkenly having sex with Dandy Nordling—one of Tasan’s associates—one night, Seraphine and Nordling marry one another.

Alamaya later confronts Tasan about his subterfuge and manipulation, but he is unable to do anything to stop Tasan. Eventually, Ethiopia surrenders to Italy. A former associates of Maxim Tasan approaches Alamaya and asks if he would be willing to join an effort to stop the economic exploitation of African-Americans in the Bronx. Alamaya agrees to join the effort. Meanwhile, the Spanish Civil War begins to erupt in Spain. Tasan plans to co-opt the issue of the Spanish Civil War in order to proceed with his work of propagating communism in Harlem. He attempts to have Professor Koazhy killed in order to eliminate Koazhy as a potential obstacle. However, Professor Koazhy’s followers kill Tasan before any harm can befall Koazhy.

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