"What did you say?" Bea asked, looking up at me.
Her little overpowdered white face was as wrinkled as a prune. Her blue-dyed
hair was so thin you could see her gray skull. Only her grayish-blue eyes were
still alive and youthful, but now angry. "What did you say?" she
asked me again. "You told her don't? This is not Seven Oakes, Miss, this
is Marshall. At Marshall I say don't and I say do. She looked at Janey just as
hard as she had looked at me. "What are you waiting on?" she asked
Ma'am," Janey said, and went back inside. (3.89)
Well, now. Miss Merle
and Miss Bea are both a couple of wealthy white ladies, but it sure sounds like
there's a little power struggle going on in the above passage, huh? Maybe it
has something to do with the fact that Miss Merle has a thing for the Major.
started over a Coke bottle. After Fix had drunk his Coke, he wanted Mathu to
take the empty bottle back in the store. Mathu told him he wasn't nobody's
servant. Fix told him he had to take the bottle back into the store or fight.
of us was out there, white and Black, sitting on the garry eating gingerbread
and drinking pop. The sheriff, Guidry, was there, too. Mathu told Guidry if Fix
started anything, he was go'n to protect himself. Guidry went on eating his
gingerbread and drinking pop like he didn't even hear him.
When Fix told Mathu to take the
bottle back in the store again, and Mathu didn't, Fix hit him—and the fight was
on. Worst fight I ever seen in my life. For a hour it was toe to toe. But when
it was over, Mathu was up, and Fix was down. The white folks wanted to lynch
Mathu, but Guidry stopped them. (4.26-8)
If this passage looks
kind of familiar, it should, but we've included it here again because it's
extra important. And that's because it has a whole lot less to do with an empty
Coke bottle than it does with struggle over power between two major characters.
Now she started telling me what happened. I listened good,
but I could see from the start that she was lying. For one thing, I knowed what
Mathu meant to that family, and specially to her. Besides that, she was trying
too hard to make me believe her. Like most of these white folks you'll find
round here, when they trying to convince you they'll look you dead in the eye,
daring you to think otherwise from what they want you to think. (7.1)
Now this sure is
something. Here, we've got Candy talking like she's got some real power and
authority—which she does—but then we get the commentary from Clatoo that lets
us know he's just playing along with it all. Doesn't that kind of mean that
Candy doesn't have as much power as she thinks she does here?
kilt him," Uncle Billy said. Uncle Billy stood by the garden fence where
Griffin had put him half an hour ago. His lips were swollen from where Mapes
had hit him. He seemed as proud of his swollen lips as was Crane's boy in <em>The Red Badge of Courage</em>.<em> </em>(8.212)
Not only is Billy
proud of the fact that he stood up to Mapes, but the reference to Crane's Civil
War novel is meant to show us that Billy—and the rest of the folks at
Marshall—are fighting a battle all their own.
people did not look at him as he moved toward them. They didn't seem afraid;
they just didn't think he was important enough to look at. Aunt Glo's little
grandson Snookum suddenly stood up before him. Griffin told him to sit back
down before he slapped him down. Griffin was very tough around the very old and
the very young. But instead of sitting back down, the boy jumped off the steps
and started toward Mapes. Candy, who had not been standing too far from Mapes,
now got between him and the boy, and told the boy to go back. He stopped, but
he did not return to the steps until his grandmother called him. (8.135)
He might be little,
but Snookum's got some big attitude in this passage. The fact that he refuses
to listen to anybody except old Aunt Glo is pretty important, because it
signals that he's not going to pay attention to white authority figures or
ain't go'n work this time, Sheriff," Clatoo said, from the end of the
turned his head quick. "Who said that?" he asked. He heard where the
voice came from, and he knowed it was Clatoo's voice, but he didn't think
Clatoo would own up to it. "I said who said that?" he asked.
did, Sheriff," Clatoo said.
pretended he couldn't find Clatoo in the crowd. Clatoo was the only person
sitting on that end of the garry, and still Mapes pretended he couldn't find
him. Then we he did, he stared at Clatoo long and hard. He though if he stared
long enough, Clatoo was bound to look down. But Clatoo didn't look down. He sat
there with that shotgun over his legs, looking straight back at Mapes. (9.35-8)
We get another
glimpse at the way white characters try and assert their power in this passage.
Not only does he act like Clatoo isn't important enough to remember by sight,
but Mapes tries to stare him down with his cold hard eyes. And, surprise,
surprise: Clatoo isn't having any of it.
"Get a gun if you want to
Mr. Clatoo," Jameson said. "I won't get a gun."
you better shut up," Clatoo said. "People with guns speak first here
she made you the leader?" Mapes asked Clatoo.
even look at him. And there ain't nothing a white man hate more than for a
n***** not to look at him when he speak to him. (9.180-4)
Sometimes, a struggle
for power doesn't have to be as obvious as fifteen guys with shotguns hanging
out near a porch. Sometimes, it's as simple as a quick answer and a glance to
prove you're not afraid.
But we had all gathered around Charlie. Mathu knelt down 'side
him and raised his head out of the dust. They had really got him. Right in the
belly. He laid there like a big old bear looking up at us. He was trying to say
something, but it never came out. He kept on looking at us, but after a while
you could tell he wasn't seeing us no more. I leaned over and touched him,
hoping some of that stuff he had found back there in the swamps might rub off
on me. After I touched him, the rest of the men did the same. Then the women,
even Candy. Then Glo told her grandchildren they must touch him, too. (19.41)
Along with being a
beautiful farewell (we know we got a little choked up), this touching of
Charlie's body represents each person there taking a little bit of the power
that Charlie's last stand symbolized, and making it their own.