Study Guide

M.C. Higgins, the Great Chapter 4

By Virginia Hamilton

Chapter 4

  • It's late afternoon. Banina isn't home, and the Dude hasn't returned yet.
  • Jones is home, though, and he's relaxing after a long day's work.
  • So M.C. decides it's a good time to talk to his dad.
  • He mentions, among other things, the fact that the Dude says the mountain is sliding down on top of them.
  • But Jones isn't hearing it; he thinks M.C. worries too much.
  • So M.C. does what he can to convince his father, but his father just gets angry.
  • This upsets M.C., but all is forgotten when Jones starts telling M.C. about his grandfather—you know, the baby that Sarah carried to the mountain.
  • Jones even has a chant that was passed down from father to son, over generations. It's a chant in their forgotten language, so Jones doesn't know exactly what it means.
  • M.C. also learns that his father is legally entitled to the mountain because it was deeded from a McKelroy to Sarah McHigan (her married name, before she changed it to Higgins).
  • The second thing Jones tells M.C. is that Sarah's spirit is still hanging around the mountain.
  • But that's not news to M.C., and he tells his dad that he hears Sarah sometimes in the forest.
  • Jones is impressed and tells M.C. not to be scared.
  • Then they share a moment of silence together.
  • What M.C. can't understand, though, is how his dad and he can have the same feeling of understanding and yet not agree about leaving the mountain.
  • M.C. can't help but feel pressure to stay on the mountain since he's the oldest in the family—and that pressure isn't just in his head; his dad tells him so.
  • Jones asks if M.C. has an idea about what's going to happen in the future, and M.C. mentions the sliding spoil heap again.
  • But Jones still isn't hearing it, and he starts singing another song instead.
  • So M.C. switches the conversation to his dad's pay. All of a sudden, he's asking Jones to leave his pay at home because he's worried Jones will drink it away.
  • Which is odd since that's not Jones's style, but M.C. can't shake this dark feeling.
  • Jones tells M.C. he can't collect his pay until the next day but scrounges around for some coins to pay M.C. his dollar; he still owes M.C. seventeen cents.
  • But M.C. gets angry and refuses to take his dad's last coins.
  • Jones leaves M.C. alone.
  • M.C. starts seeing visions in his mind—bad ones, like blood on the ground and the spoil heap on top of Jones's head.
  • Then he hears his father's singing in his head, which totally annoys him because he can't get the sad tone to leave him alone.
  • Which is why he forces himself to go into a long flashback.
  • It's a memory of one of his birthdays. He remembers his mother coming home, and everyone is waiting for her because she's their center.
  • She sees M.C. on his pole and yodels out to them, and when M.C. and Macie Pearl both yodel back, all the kids go crazy.
  • Banina starts to sing like she's telling a story of her day.
  • When she finally appears, M.C. has a present for her (even though it's his birthday); it's a trick on his pole.
  • The trick makes Banina laugh and tease M.C. (in a good way).
  • M.C. notices that Banina's carrying a shopping bag.
  • Banina pulls out a present for everyone—candy.
  • And for M.C.? A box of chocolate cake and a package, probably with clothes inside it.
  • The whole family walks happily back into the house.

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