Coming of Age in Mississippi | Study Guide

Anne Moody

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Coming of Age in Mississippi | Part 2, Chapter 13 : High School | Summary

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Summary

Mrs. Burke asks Essie to work the upcoming weekend, but Essie says she has plans. Mama protests Essie should have worked when Mrs. Burke asked her. Mama's changed, Essie thinks, and so has Raymond. Now Raymond seems to hate her.

In the fall Anne keeps busy with basketball, band, work, Sunday school, and piano lessons. Her new basketball coach, Mr. Hicks, challenges the team in training, and Anne's physical stamina improves. She starts tutoring Wayne, Mrs. Burke's son, and his classmates in algebra. Wayne and Anne soon become friends, and Mrs. Burke tries to keep them apart. Wayne responds by seeking out Anne's company. Mrs. Burke's dining room begins to represent "hatred, love, and fear in many variations" to Anne. But she's also gaining courage.

When Mrs. Burke tells Anne she opposes integration in schools, Anne says white and black students could learn a lot from one another. Mrs. Burke responds angrily but doesn't confront Anne. The next day, however, Anne becomes afraid Mrs. Burke has hired someone to beat her or kill her. She avoids work but feels unable to quit.

Once Anne returns to work, she learns how Mrs. Burke plans to retaliate—by framing Anne's brother Junior for stealing her purse. Anne quits at the end of the day. She explains her family has never stolen; they've worked instead. She says goodbye to Mrs. Burke's mother Mrs. Crosby, who promises to help Anne when she goes to college. Anne hopes someday she'll put Mrs. Burke and "all her kind" out of her life.

Anne is quickly hired by another white woman, Mrs. Hunt, a friend of Mrs. Burke's. One day Mrs. Hunt sees Anne chatting with Wayne at work. Anne realizes Mrs. Hunt has hired her "out of curiosity." Wayne is scared for her, and she's scared too. Still Anne keeps the job and earns Mrs. Hunt's respect. She goes to stay with her Aunt Celia in New Orleans the following summer, hoping to find work there.

Analysis

The Moody family dynamics have changed, creating new friction in the house. Mama is more afraid of the escalating violence, and wants Anne to meet her white employer's demands. Anne's older, more confident, and less willing to cave even for small requests. She knows her priorities. She can focus on her goals by keeping "old, embedded, recurring dreams" at bay, until new threats come to find her.

She experiences the stereotype of young black women as "seductresses" for herself. Wayne's possible, innocent interest in her puts them both in danger, and Anne knows she can easily be blamed for any real or imagined incident. Though she develops a crush on Wayne herself, they both know even being seen in public together is too risky for her. Her authority over the other students as "teacher" disrupts Mrs. Burke's understanding of the world. Some younger white people are more accepting of interracial friendships, but the older generation isn't.

Anne is figuring out which survival tactics she should use. During her conversation with Mrs. Burke about integrated schools, Anne first tries Mama's survival tactic of feigned ignorance. But this won't work for Anne. She sees through Mrs. Burke's "honesty and concern" as true fear of social progress, and responds with respectful honesty herself. When Mrs. Burke says "all Negroes aren't like you" she's making a distinction between black people who try to meet the "respectable" standards of white people (such as subservient "Uncle Toms") and black people unconcerned with assimilation or white opinions.

As Anne wonders how "respectful" she'll need to be to survive in a white world, she questions the entire concept—why should she conform to white standards? Does she want white approval at all? Though she fears the lengths Mrs. Burke will go to in retaliation, in the end Anne stands up for her family. She has no desire for Mrs. Burke's respect any longer; Anne values her self-respect more. She carries this new assurance into her work with Mrs. Hunt.

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