I had to move without movin'. I done thought 'bout it since a heap, and when you think right hard you see that that's the way things is always been with me. That's just about been my life.
Here, Trueblood nears the end of telling his horrific story about incest with his daughter. His wife has just awoken to catch him in the act, and he describes, in his own vernacular, the paralysis of the black man’s necessity: to move without moving, to advance invisibly, to create change without seeming to change at all. It’s almost poetic, this oxymoron of still movement, and ironic that it is spoken so eloquently by an uneducated man who is a pariah in his own community.
The world moves in a circle like a roulette wheel. In the beginning, black is on top, in the middle epochs, white holds the odds, but soon Ethiopia shall stretch forth her noble wings! Then place your money on the black!
One of the vets at the Golden Day bar explains his view of the situation to Mr. Norton. His is a philosophy of history that explains the opposites of white and black power as cyclical, like a roulette wheel, followed by images of the sun’s heat and the earth’s ice. In all cases, the opposites always coexist, but at any moment in history, one is “on top” of the other.
“A Death on the City Pavements—that's the title of a detective story or something I read somewhere . . .” He laughed. “I only mean meta-phor-ically speaking. They're living, but dead. Dead-in-living . . . a unity of opposites.”
Brother Jack explains to the narrator his philosophy of what is happening historically to people such as the old couple who were evicted on the streets of Harlem. This idea that people can be both alive and dead, both seen and unseen, both real and imagined, is a central theme of the text. The narrator describes the comment as double talk, but he also essentially agrees that people, especially blacks in that era, live a kind of double life, both visible and invisible.