Chicago, Twelfth Street Station, October 1937. Ida Mae and her family disembark in the chilly Chicago morning and walk through the swarming crowd. Now, they have to cross town and board another train to Milwaukee. “The great belching city” of Chicago—the first city they’ve ever visited—feels like heaven.
The thrill of disembarking in Chicago leaves a strong impression on Ida Mae for the rest of her life. The city’s novel, exciting bustle represents the freedom that she has seized and the better life that she has chosen to pursue by moving to the North—even if she had little choice in the matter.