Study Guide

M.C. Higgins, the Great Chapter 1

By Virginia Hamilton

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Chapter 1

  • M.C.'s on top of the world.
  • Or at least, it feels like it. In reality, he's just standing on a balcony in his house, overlooking the hills.
  • By the way, he has lettuce leaves wrapped around his wrist, like little wings.
  • It's summertime, early in the morning, and M.C.'s all alone, which he loves.
  • He also happens to love the mountain his house is on.
  • Is the mountain going to be his one day?
  • Eh… he's not so sure. He does know that he and the family are going to have leave, though.
  • M.C. runs down the mountain like he's floating on air.
  • While he's running, he starts thinking about this rumor that's been in the air—something about a black guy, with a tape recorder, who wants to go around recording their voices.
  • M.C.'s got this genius idea brewing: He's going to use this guy to make his mama a singing star.
  • Once that happens, he and his family can leave the mountain.
  • M.C.'s attention is back on the mountain, all that nature; he gets near a ravine and a bridge, which makes him think about his friend Ben Killburn.
  • Ben's awesome, mostly because next to Ben, M.C. is even more awesome.
  • M.C.'s bigger; he's also a great swimmer.
  • Not that he always was…
  • The first time he tried to swim the Ohio River, he totally failed.
  • According to his father, he failed because he just ran into the river without strategizing and thinking about how to deal with the river.
  • His father taught him that lesson by beating it into him with a belt. Not exactly a softie, his father…
  • M.C. finally meets up with Ben.
  • They're really great friends, who have this weird telepathic, deep connection, but M.C. isn't actually supposed to hang with Ben.
  • That's because Ben comes from the Killburns, and everyone knows the Killburns are straight-up witchy and weird—as in magic-weird.
  • Ben even has six fingers and toes on each hand and foot. All the Killburn men have them. See? Strange…
  • Ben tells M.C. that his dad's trying to heal the earth—magically—with his hands.
  • The land needs it because of all the strip-mining that's been ruining their area.
  • M.C. doesn't like being reminded of the danger their land is in because, at one point, he had nightmares about the soil falling on top of him and his family.
  • Apparently Ben's seen the stranger with the recorder, so M.C. tries to get details out of Ben.
  • Ben says that he told the guy all about how M.C.'s mom could sing.
  • They start talking about how M.C.'s mom's singing talent is going to get M.C. and his family off of Sarah's Mountain (that's where he lives, by the way).
  • But M.C. keeps getting all sensitive about some of Ben's questions; it's like Ben isn't confident that M.C. and his family can leave.
  • So M.C., feeling a little gruff, leaves Ben and takes off.
  • While he's walking along in the woods, he "hears" or senses Ben telling him that someone's there.
  • M.C. notices that that someone is a girl.
  • At first, he thinks it's Mary, this local girl he tried to force a kiss with once (she slapped him).
  • But it's not. The girl is carrying a sack and she's clearly a stranger.
  • M.C. stalks her like an animal hunting prey.
  • She heads toward Ben's area, where Ben is hiding, camouflaged.
  • She notices him and runs; M.C. can hear her.
  • Anyway, she's gone and M.C. quickly forgets about her.
  • He has a mission: He has to meet the Dude (the guy with the recorder), so he can bring the Dude back to his mother.
  • He ends up back home, where he notices his prize, which isn't a medal or anything like that, but a grape arbor.
  • He climbs up this super-tall pole with tricycle parts on top.
  • The pole can bend, so M.C. moves back and forth with the pole.
  • From the top of the pole, he's checking on his siblings because that's what older brothers do, especially if the parents are hard at work most of the time.
  • That pole makes him feel peaceful. His father got it for him after M.C. swam the Ohio River.
  • (Who knew climbing a tall pole could make a kid so happy?)

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