The first chapter is rich with symbolic imagery. Ragged, skinny children play with empty beer cans. Police sirens fill the night and remind Alfred of Harlem's despair and the conflict with authority. Yet there are lovers in the park, music, and dreams.The setting is crucial to the novel. In this opening chapter, Lipsyte provides his first descriptions of Alfred's Harlem. As Lipsyte presents it, the atmosphere of Harlem is repressive. The sun, often a literary symbol of hope and promise, melts into the hopelessness of "the dirty gray Harlem sky." Even the air is rancid and foul; Lipsyte describes it as "sour air." Men drag card tables out onto the sidewalks, and we can imagine the shrill sound of table legs scraping across concrete. Lipsyte's description recalls the sound of cars crunching through garbage and broken glass. These sounds underscore the overall feeling of the backdrop that Lipsyte is painting. He wants us to
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