The reasons we work – LeRoy’s Sudden Proud Ambition

             In the first chapter of “On the Line,” we find a strong sentiment of reason and ambition to not only find work, but pursue supported dreams behind LeRoy, as well as the people he encounters in New York. After being sparked towards his ambition to sing by a music professor from Hampton Institute that said he “got a golden throat,” (4) LeRoy formulated his own pride in partaking it. It’s interesting how, great opportunities, often arise by rare coincidence or chance, to which can also lead to lifestyle changes. If not for his singing in the showers, he would not have received his recommendations and go on his journey to New York, which would later pave, not only his love life with Lily, but also strengthen his bond with himself.

                What was also interesting about the development of the first chapter was how quick his movement occurred from place, to place and from being with his girlfriend Lily, and recalling meeting her, to living with her. In midst of the quickness of his “taking of the letters” and running to New York, we find the anxiety of work and family take place as a dominant, and very currently constant thought in terms of monetary gain. His first move in “on One-hundred-and-forty-third Street in the basement apartment of the building’s supervisor, whose assistant he became, and got extra jobs stoking furnaces in neighboring houses which had not yet converted to automatic or gas” (5) became one of his only first introduced laborious jobs. LeRoy’s thought then goes out to when he is writing to his mother where he “felt like he was treading water instead of swimming—“since, “he wasn’t making enough to send her home a decent check, his hours were too irregular for continuous voice study and practice, and besides there was his girlfriend Lily” (5) which produces a short, yet foreshadowed mention of his anxieties that he would later have with Lily.  

                In the flat he moved into with Lily and her family, LeRoy’s proudness is presented through his statements and his vocal talent. In essence, his oral ability (throat) which is backed up by his lungs, emphasize an inner working of labor, where the body is the center of toil and the mind is the manager. As he is talking to Teddy, who mentions to him about factory work, his confidence from his voice allows him to say ““There’s no work I can’t do.” “You know how powerful my lungs are? My back is just as strong. I want to put my back to work for my lungs, you know what I mean? And for my Lily,”“(7) demonstrating a sort of naiveté.

                So what does the short introduction in the first chapter dictate about his work ethic? Ideally it is, whatever he feels strongly for, he will decide to stick with. Since he is confident about his singing skills, his statements end up being proud. Therefore the decisions he made with Lily, through his voice, demonstrate a bit of the rushed pride he is feeling. It is no wonder that there was not much mention with his parents in the beginning, with which each tragic incident was quickly passed over. Ambition is in many ways one of the life changing events that keeps one body like LeRoy focused at all times. It’s just glossing over the small details to his working masterpiece. 

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One thought on “The reasons we work – LeRoy’s Sudden Proud Ambition

  1. I agree that there’s an inner/outer relationship being explored here that resonates with similar scenes in the prior book. LeRoy wants to practice his “real” calling while doing merely instrumental work–signing solfeggio, for example, while hooking car bodies. But the intensity of the work is such that part of the self can’t secede from the job, like Eden in the laundry or Luigi at the construction site. Even in this more regulated and humane worksite, it seems, work is nearly all-encompassing.

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