Flying home and other stories by Ralph Ellison

Nothing is as great as writing stories to which people can feel a true sense of belonging; one that outlines in familiar terms, contemporary events of man and nature; that which highlights the faults of man and also include life lessons in subtle sense for all to enjoy. Experiences, they say, speak more and influence deeper than, words and theories. This is typical of Ralph Ellison in his stories. He was well known for his master-piece, the Invisible Man and especially his compilation of short stories, Flying Home and other stories. Besides, he finds a useful theme of these stories in race.

The Collections in ‘Flying Home and other stories’ were written by this great African American writer who never lived old enough to see them published[ He died in 1994]. There were selected, and published in 1996 by his friend and his editor, John Callahan in a 176-page concise and beautiful rendition. Of the stories in the book, the most profound and interesting of them is packaged into a 27-page work that tells an amusing and stimulating story of Todd, the African American Pilot training in the South during World War II.

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It is not far from the truth that this story is of deep value and can best be fully understood by a native African American: it tells of his fears and worries, his working relationship with the white man pointing vividly to the subject of a racial discrimination. It tells a tale of an African American air corps with inherent apprehension over the activities of white men. “When you must have [white people] judge you, knowing that they never accept your mistakes as your own but hold it against your whole race — that was humiliation, Todd, the Pilot, thinks.”[Ellison, 1996]

The story centers on racism. In a serious attempt to overcome this racial discrimination, Todd works hard at becoming an excellent American pilot. This, he sees, would be an avenue to prove the ingenuity of his race. Alas! He flies too high and too fast! Unfortunately, this lands him in a ghastly plane crash which leaves him with generalized body pain and ankle fracture. He needs help and gets it from an African-American with traits of slavery days, peasant farmer, Jefferson. He intervenes duly, with an added plus: suppressing Todd’s anxiety of white-man, Dabney Graves. This man is the prejudiced landowner of Jefferson’s farm.

This story captures the apprehension of a typical American of African descent in his relationship with whites: emphasizing the white man overly and unnecessary criticism of black mistakes. This creates huge expectations for him, places him in a position that is reflective of every other black man. This may be unpleasant.

The writer incorporates the Myth of Icarus into the events of the twentieth century. Of particular importance is the successful way the writer presents its theme to the reader. His style is both compelling and appealing.  He speaks of his apprehension of his fellow black man about another race, especially the nearby white.

The story has been captured in a way that be fully appreciated by a person with either a background in the African-American culture or with sympathetic approach to understanding that culture, with its peculiarities.  Really, anyone outside this bracket is limited in his perception of his message. He only tries to do so.

The subject also paints a white man in a bigotry and compelling feature, as in Todd’s thoughts quoted above. This may not be pleasant to a fanatic white of KKK affiliation. The tale also teaches the young black how to deal with such situations with wisdom and patience; ultimately how to live in the world where he has found himself.

Like every other story, it is captured within a short space in page and words with a main theme: racism: what it is to a black man.




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Flying home and other stories by Ralph Ellison. (2016, Dec 12). Retrieved from