Study Guide

Ballad of the Sad Cafe and Other Stories Three-Act Plot Analysis

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Three-Act Plot Analysis

As with the classic plot analysis, we modeled the novella as a three-act plot exclusively here as well. How would you do it, with, say, "A Domestic Dilemma"?

Act I

In the first act of the novella, we learn about the town: what it is now, and what it used to be. The town is confused but happy when Miss Amelia, having gone through a heck of a ten-day marriage to the town Romeo Marvin Macy, falls in with a little hunchback named Lymon Willis. Together, they run a café with whiskey and dinners out of Miss Amelia's store, and the town gets together on the regular for great times.

Act II

Things immediately go sour when Marvin Macy comes back to town, having been in prison. Cousin Lymon seems to be bewitched by the mean man, and switches his loyalty from weird, proud, stoic Miss Amelia to this stinker. Marvin Macy and Miss Amelia weren't BFFs to begin with, but losing Cousin Lymon only makes things worse. The hunchback invites Marvin Macy to live with them, and for Miss Amelia, that's just about the last straw.


Marvin Macy and Miss Amelia have an all-out brawl, surrounded by the whole town and people from neighboring towns, come in just to see the spectacle. They're almost evenly matched, but Miss Amelia is stronger and gains the upper hand, pinning Marvin Macy to the floor of the café.

Then Cousin Lymon intervenes, attacking Miss Amelia until Marvin Macy is able to reverse the pin. Miss Amelia loses the fight, and her love. In the aftermath of her loss, Lymon and Marvin lay waste to all of her belongings, and skedaddle out of town. Miss Amelia closes the café, and there's nothing else to do in town. In a kind of epilogue, the narrator shows us the beauty of the music made by a twelve-man chain gang singing as they work patching up the highway.

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