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 hear those sounds; he wants us to see the gray sky; he wants us to smell the sour air. Lipsyte wants us to feel the grit of the neighborhood and to recreate this atmosphere in our imaginations. Two dominating images introduced in this chapter are the clubhouse and the cave. The clubhouse is
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