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Dry September

Dry September

by William Faulkner

Dry September Part 1 Summary

  • It's a September evening, and it hasn't rained in 62 days.
  • Some kind of "rumor" or "story" has been spreading like wildfire. It has to do with "Miss Minnie Cooper and a Negro" (1.1).
  • None of the people inside the barbershop this hot Saturday night knows the truth of what went down.
  • (We enter the barbershop in the middle of the conversation.)
  • One of the barbers is saying that a man named Will Mayes couldn't have done anything to Minnie.
  • The barber is a middle-aged man, and he's shaving a man ("the client") while he talks.
  • He says he know Will and knows he's a good guy.
  • The barber also knows Minnie. He says that because she's a woman of around 40 years old, who has never been married, he "dont believe."
  • (The characters in this story rarely finish their sentences. It's clear here that the barber is talking about why he doesn't believe Will did anything to Minnie.)
  • This doesn't sit to well with a young guy in a sweat stained silk shirt. He wants to know how the barber can believe a black man over the word of a white woman.
  • The barber repeats his belief that Will is innocent.
  • Silk shirt-guy calls the barber a "niggerlover" and accuses the barber of having helped Will leave town (1.8).
  • Now the barber says he doesn't think anything happened to Minnie. He suggests that women of Minnie's age, women who haven't been married, get funny ideas about men.
  • Silk shirt guy is on his feet.
  • The client half jumps up.
  • Either silk shirt guy, or the client asks the barber if he's saying that a white lady is a liar.
  • The barber (holding his razor over his customer's neck) insinuates that older, virgin women have issues.
  • Silk shirt guy calls the barber a "niggerlover" again (1.15).
  • Another guys tells the silk shirt guy (whose name we now know is Butch) to "Shut up" and wait for "the facts" (1.16).
  • The client says that even though he is just a drummer (meaning salesperson – one who "drums up" sales) from out of town, he will help Butch do what needs to be done.
  • The barber says they should wait for "the truth" (1.19).
  • The client wants to know how the barber can let a black man attack a white woman and get away with it. He advises the barber to go back to the north.
  • (As you probably guessed, this story is set in the southern US, probably in the racially charged late 1920s or early 1930s.)
  • The barber says he is a southerner.
  • Butch (silk shirt guy) implies that he will defend the white woman's honor.
  • The client agrees.
  • At this point, a man named McLendon, an ex-soldier, arrives dramatically in the barber shop doorway and asks, "Well […], are you going to sit there and let a black son rape a white woman on the streets of Jefferson?" (1.28).
  • (Jefferson is Faulkner's fictional town. For more on that, see "Setting.")
  • Butch, sweating madly, tells the guys in the barber shop that is exactly what he's been trying to explain.
  • Another man says that he remembers Minnie accusing someone of watching her, from a roof facing her window, take off her clothes, maybe last year.
  • McLendon says that doesn't matter. He reasons: "Are you going to let the black sons get away with it until one really does it?" (1.36).
  • McLendon asks who will join him in avenging Minnie's honor.
  • The barber (who we now know is called Henry Hawkshaw, or Hawk for short) again suggests that waiting to find out "the facts" would be a good move (1.40).
  • McLendon asks how Hawkshaw could believe a black man over a white woman.
  • Another ex-soldier tells McLendon to calm himself, and asks if anybody in the room knows anything about what happened.
  • McLendon isn't having it, and manages to get all the men in the barbershop (except the barbers) to join with him.
  • Hawkshaw asks them not to do it, and again vouches for Will's character.
  • McLendon has "a heavy automatic pistol" sticking out of his pocket (1.45).
  • Hawkshaw rushes out after them, telling his fellow barbers that he'll be back when he can, saying that he needs to stop them from hurting Will.
  • After Hawkshaw leaves, one of the two remaining barbers says he wouldn't want to be in Hawkshaw's place if he made McLendon mad.
  • The other barber asks (without quite saying it) if the first barber thinks that Will really raped Minnie.

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