I don’t know if anyone else found this interesting, but I really like the way Ellison writes about food. It’s like food becomes a source of identification, a symbol. At the beginning of chapter 13, the narrator is roaming the streets, searching, searching for something, for comfort maybe, for home. And he meets a man who is selling hot yams on the corner and suddenly he is hungry. Instead of taking the yam home like most people do, the narrator eats it while he walks and is “just as suddenly overcome by an intense feeling of freedom […] It was exhilarating” (264). How can this yam not be symbolic!
Also, the yam vendor says something pretty interesting to the narrator when he remarks that the yam looks good. The vendor replies, “You right, but everything what looks good ain’t necessarily good” (264). This could definitely have a deeper meaning, not just about the yam itself but about the narrator’s obsession with doing right by white society. It’s very appealing to him, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for him or that it guarantees happiness, and so far nothing good has come from his efforts to fit in. I think he sums up this thought best when after going back for another yam, the narrator says, “What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do?” (266). This is a big turning point for him, and he is no longer that naive young man that we saw in chapter 1; he is evolving into something more.