Study Guide

Ballad of the Sad Cafe and Other Stories Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

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Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis


While we're taking a moment to explore the novella as a tragedy here, we might argue that all of the stories in the collection are tragic in their own way.

While it's easy to think about The Ballad of the Sad Café as a tragedy for Miss Amelia only, it makes a little more sense when you think of the town itself as "in" on this sorrowful action.

Anticipation Stage

The town is an unassuming cotton mill town, similar to other Southern towns of the era. Miss Amelia is a weirdo, but an asset to the town, making whiskey, doctoring, and running a general store. The people of the town work and gossip. Miss Amelia works and works.

It seems as if nothing will ever change, when a sickly hunchback called Cousin Lymon comes to town and Miss Amelia takes a special shine to him.

Dream Stage

Miss Amelia and Cousin Lymon seem to be in love. The town isn't sure whether it's a normal kind of love, but they're happy to see her happy, and even happier that she's opened a nightly café in the town. For six years, Miss Amelia takes care of Cousin Lymon, making sure he's fed well and has everything he needs.

Frustration Stage

When Miss Amelia's estranged criminal husband Marvin Macy gets out of jail, and eventually makes his way out of town, it isn't good news for anyone. Cousin Lymon, however, is instantly attracted to the brutal, mysterious man, and begins to follow him around, forsaking Miss Amelia's love.

Nightmare Stage

Miss Amelia tries and tries to get Cousin Lymon back into the fold, and to get Marvin Macy packing. But once Lymon invites Marvin to move into their home, Miss Amelia feels as if she's living in an upside-down world and prepares to fight her ex. They fight, and Miss Amelia almost wins, until Lymon attacks her and allows Marvin Macy to be victorious.

Destruction Stage

In this tragedy, the destruction is literal. And it's done by Marvin Macy and his new henchman, Lymon. Miss Amelia loses the fight, and so much else.

What was love turned truly sour, and these men steal Miss Amelia's valuables and wreck everything else, leaving town post-haste. Worst of all for the town, Miss Amelia never opens the café again, and it feels as if everyone is worse off than when it all started: Miss Amelia (alone in her boarded-up building) particularly.

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