Like many other young black men of his generation, he fell into a certain stereotypical mold imposed on him by the way whites viewed black people. He acted out that stereotype and put on the mask society had made for him. He wore his hair straight because white people had straight hair, making him ashamed of his natural hair. He dressed like other young men of his generation and behaved as they did. He preferred women who were lighter in color because white society had made him ashamed of his color. He fell into crime as an easy way to make a living, and in any case society asked nothing more of him and expected even less.
His spiritual journey takes a different direction when he is in prison and begins to see the fallacy of this way of life and the way it has been imposed on him without his awareness. He also becomes ashamed of his own ignorance as another inmate, Bimbi, makes him see how little he knows and how much he needs to learn: "But every book I picked up had few sentences which didn't contain anywhere from one to nearly all of the words that might as well have been in Chinese" (Haley 171). He gets hold of a dictionary and learns the words one at a time, teaching himself both to read and to write as he goes through the dictionary. He copies the dictionary page by page, learning by doing, and he reads everything he can as he becomes better at understanding what he reads, reading to t