Coming of Age in Mississippi | Study Guide

Anne Moody

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Course Hero. "Coming of Age in Mississippi Study Guide." October 16, 2017. Accessed December 14, 2017. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Coming-of-Age-in-Mississippi/.

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Course Hero, "Coming of Age in Mississippi Study Guide," October 16, 2017, accessed December 14, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Coming-of-Age-in-Mississippi/.

Coming of Age in Mississippi | Part 1, Chapter 7 : Childhood | Summary

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Summary

The new school year starts, and Essie and her siblings find work picking pecans for their neighbor Mr. Wheeler. They use the money for school clothes.

Essie starts babysitting for the white Jenkins family. Young Mrs. Jenkins asks Essie to use her first name, Linda Jean, and treats her like a friend. Linda Jean's mother, Mrs. Burke, is shocked at how close Essie and Linda Jean appear, and tells her daughter she pays Essie too much. Soon Linda Jean gives Essie a lower wage. Mr. Jenkins's father is a notoriously racist sheriff, but he doesn't cause Essie trouble.

Mama has another child, Jerry, and finally marries Raymond. The couple is nervous Miss Pearl will find out about the marriage, but they're happy once the ceremony is over.

Analysis

Mrs. Burke gives Essie one of her first personal encounters with the viciousness of white supremacy. Linda Jean's betrayal is even more jarring. Like Essie, Linda Jean tries to step outside the boundaries of her society by paying Essie a high wage, and is reminded by her mother to stay in her place. But unlike Essie, Linda Jean gives in. Essie's familiar with overtly racist authorities. Now she learns white people who befriend black people, and who don't personally display racist tendencies, will still obey a white supremacist authority. She starts to see the real harm done by people who quietly give in to oppressive systems, or who watch oppression and do nothing.

The changes in the Moody family are just as tumultuous. Raymond and Mama aren't sure what the future holds or what the outcome of their marriage will be. As Essie fears, Raymond still doesn't have the courage to stand up to his own family. The adults in Essie's life are conflicted between staying in a protective community and being true to their own desires. Essie observes how often they choose the community's protection.

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