"Dry September" focuses on the kidnapping and likely murder of Will Mayes, a black man in a Mississippi town, when he is connected sexually (by way of rumor) to a white woman. The story features a vigilante mob, and explores the psychology of the mob's formation and operation. As we all know, this scenario was real in the pre-Civil Rights South, and even after that. Set in the late 1920s or early 1930s, the story presents a vision of a place where justice seems completely absent, and where conviction and sentencing come before investigation and trial.
Questions About Justice and Judgment
- Is there any justice in this story? If so, where do you see it, and why do you think it's an example of justice?
- Is there any chance that McLendon or the other men will be charged with crimes against Will? Why or why not? If you are having a hard time answering, where might you look for evidence that would help you make an educated guess?
- Is Minnie complicit with the McLendon and company in the crimes against Will? Why or why not? Is Hawkshaw?
Chew on This
By negative example, "Dry September" shows us that some important aspects of justice are patience, listening, and entertaining multiple perspectives.
Minnie and Will are both judged harshly by the people of Jefferson; these judgments are based on irrational prejudices concerning race, gender, and sexuality.