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Coming of Age in Mississippi | Study Guide

Anne Moody

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Part 2: High School, Chapter 16

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 2: High School, Chapter 16 of Anne Moody's memoir Coming of Age in Mississippi.

Coming of Age in Mississippi | Part 2, Chapter 16 : High School | Summary



Anne's new, more sophisticated style, thanks to Lola, gets her positive feedback at school. It also results in unwanted male attention, especially from white men. Her coach Mr. Hicks grows affectionate toward her, and Mama hopes Anne will marry him. Raymond gives Anne longing looks which make her increasingly uncomfortable. She realizes Raymond's attention won't stop.

Then a black Centreville resident, Samuel O'Quinn, is murdered—possibly for being an NAACP member and trying to start civil rights activism in Centreville. O'Quinn confided in some black people in Centreville, but one of them betrayed him. Anne's rage makes her want to kill every white person in town.

Anne hears O'Quinn was betrayed by Principal Willis, "one of the biggest Uncle Toms in the South." She isolates herself as much as she can. She's furious with Willis and with Mrs. Hunt, her white employer, for not condemning the murder of black residents. She decides to leave Centreville as soon as she finishes the semester.

But Anne ends up leaving home even earlier than she planned. After a fight with Raymond, Anne expresses her outrage at how Raymond treats her and Mama. She storms out, unsure where she is going, but knowing she won't come back. She visits the town sheriff, Ed Cassidy, and asks him to return to the house for her clothes.

A relative drives her to the nearby town of Woodville, where Daddy and his new wife Emma live. Anne briefly stays with her Aunt Alberta so she can keep attending Willis High. But when Mama continues to contact her, Anne moves in with her father and Emma. She has an uneasy relationship with Emma at first, but warms to her after seeing how Emma encourages her own family.


If Anne wants respect, she needs to demand it. Even though she leaves home in an unexpected fit of passion and anger, the departure feels inevitable. Anne knows she can't maintain the silence required to survive in her mother's house. She won't survive, she'll suffocate. And the fear Raymond will sexually abuse or assault her has grown increasingly real.

As Anne builds up her own shore of defenses, she grows more ready to fight. Her first instinctual responses after O'Quinn's murder are violent. She wants to do to white people what's been done to her people. The white residents have power to condemn the killings without being killed themselves, and to take responsibility for their fellow white people. But they give their silent approval instead. She feels like "waging a war in protest"; as she learns in the civil rights movement, violence may be coming no matter what.

Anne isn't sure how to deal with her overwhelming emotions yet. She's even surprised herself at the rage she feels when she leaves home, saying "something inside me popped." The complexity of her relationship toward Mama also causes internal conflict. While Mama is outwardly concerned about the family's reputation, she expresses clear grief when Anne leaves. Anne pities and empathizes with her mother but can't watch Mama settle for less than she deserves. She can't watch black people be mistreated any longer in any way.

Anne's parents' roles have reversed since she was a child. After her mother's betrayal, Anne depends on her father. Through the vibrant, strong, and contrary Emma, Anne sees how interracial marriages and racially blended families can be treated as ordinary, without division based on skin tone. This, too, is different from her childhood. The reader sees Anne's world grow and watches Anne question her assumptions.

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