Study Guide

M.C. Higgins, the Great Chapter 2

By Virginia Hamilton

Chapter 2

  • M.C.'s still on top of the pole, swinging back and forth, just chilling and meditating on the view.
  • He imagines his parents dead in the ground, his siblings dead, too, and himself as the last old guy standing.
  • Now that he's on the whole morbid tip, he can't stop thinking about all the dead people underneath the junk pile on their mountain.
  • His family does go back generations, all the way to his great-grandmother, Sarah.
  • Cue story time: Sarah escaped slavery, making her way to the mountain with the baby.
  • She hadn't seen the mountain for two days because haze covered it, but when she did see it, she ran for it.
  • M.C.'s so into imagining her story that he totally trances out, like he's there with Sarah.
  • He snaps out of the trance and sees something out in the distance, among the trees; it's a person.
  • Maybe it's that girl he saw in the woods?
  • That's an enticing thought, but M.C. all of a sudden remembers his siblings, who are swimming—unchaperoned—out on the lake.
  • They could drown, but M.C. tries not to think about it.
  • If only his mother Banina were around… but she's hard at work, which leaves him in charge.
  • Which is also why he sets rabbit traps. Those rabbits can help feed the family because, even with his parents' salaries, the family still goes hungry.
  • But he can't depend on his rabbit traps either, since they don't always come through.
  • By the way, just so you know, M.C. is a really good hunter. He's also entirely self-taught, and doesn't even have a dog to help him.
  • And not only is he a good hunter, he can tell the kids to do whatever and they'll do it.
  • In other words, M.C.'s the man.
  • All of a sudden, he notices the Dude—you know, the guy with the tape recorder.
  • M.C. yells out to the Dude and gets him to walk toward his direction.
  • Meanwhile, he prepares a stick to help the Dude walk.
  • By the time he gets to the Dude, the guy is really tired; good thing M.C. brought a stick to help him out.
  • That's because he's old and he's from the city (Chicago); he's not used to the rough terrain.
  • M.C. and the Dude chat about how the Dude got to the mountain and how M.C.'s mother can sing.
  • They start heading back to M.C.'s house so that the Dude can record Banina singing, and on the way there, the Dude—his name's James K. Lewis—gets curious about this cut in the mountain where miners blasted the rock looking for coal.
  • Lewis is really interested in how the cut got there; he thinks it's "a shame" how the miners had to destroy that part of the mountain to get to only ten feet of coal at the bottom.
  • M.C., on the other hand, doesn't want to think or talk about the mining cut.
  • While they're walking around the heap of dirt, rocks, and trees left from the blasting, James notices that the whole heap is slipping.
  • In fact, he warns M.C. to be careful walking on the heap because it's clear the pile isn't stable.
  • M.C. freaks out on the inside because he's reminded of his recurring nightmare in which a pile of rocks and dirt fall on him.
  • He's still thinking about the sliding heap when they get back to the house because he knows the heap will eventually hit the house.
  • But they'll be gone by then… right?
  • Once at the house, M.C. climbs up onto the pole, which completely impresses James.
  • M.C. points out that when they leave, he'll need someone to help him carry the pole, but James says that won't work because the pole is too heavy.
  • Leaving, according to James, means letting go of all your stuff, including memories.
  • Which reminds him: Where's Banina?
  • But M.C. lets him know that Banina won't be back until the evening.
  • This deflates James a little, but he decides he'll just come back later in the evening, after he goes to record another family out in the hills.
  • James also tells M.C. a little about his work recording people's music and voices.
  • M.C. and James share some egg-salad sandwiches (M.C.'s never had one before) before James goes off.
  • M.C. also tells James about the girl out in the woods.
  • But James ruins the mystery for M.C.—apparently the girl was James's ride into the area (she has a car; James doesn't).
  • This is disappointing to M.C., but once James leaves, M.C. hopes the girl gets lost. That way, M.C. will have to show her the way out.

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