Several themes began to stick out to me while reading part one of The Intuitionist. However, I have only been able to fully grasp onto one of them so far: the extreme value placed on the industry of elevators and their inspection greatly accentuates the lack of progression in racial discrimination.
There are departments, guilds, and even institutions in place for teaching and implementing everything related to elevators. The importance and progression of elevator technology, as well as the lack of racial progression, is clear in the answers to the spoken exam Lila Mae recalls, e.g. ‘The Sixteen’ different types of elevators compared to the twelve colored elevator inspectors in the entire country (pg. 50-53). Elevator inspectors are held to such a high regard that Lila Mae considered bypassing traffic and “brandishing her inspector credentials should a policeman stop her” (pg.11). However, Lila Mae recalls being dropped off at college where she lives in a janitor closet because there are no rooms colored students may board in.
This theme between elevators and race, I’m sure, will continue throughout the book as a metaphor that compares the increasing technology of the elevator industry to the long road of progression that needs to take place surrounding racial inequality.
It seems as though the alternate world in which this novel takes place might progress to the elevator technology in this clip before making true racial progression.