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Hue and Cry by James Alan McPherson Day 1

February 15, 2021 | A Matter of Vocabulary

Instead of going to church, young Thomas Brown visits the Saturday-night drunks “waiting in misery for the bars to open on Monday morning. His own father had been that way and Thomas knew that the waiting was very hard.”
Here is Thomas’s knowledge, and the story’s knowledge, imbued with pain and compassion.

In II, an inventory of the people Thomas and Eddie watch from their shared room at the top of the gray wooden house next to the funeral parlor. The mortician, the policemen with their red noses, Mrs. Quick sweeping her porch with potash and water. The Barefoot Lady whose declaration of love haunts Thomas, and the story.

The story reveals bigotry and oppression through its use of scenes, but its structural spine is the catalogue of beautifully described, eternally remembered characters Thomas observes and vows to record during their time on earth, before the Horn blows, “and all them in the graves will hear it and be raised up.”

Thomas, the listener, takes in these final, searing dialogue non-exchanges:
“And I’m gonna learn all the big words in the world too.”
“You’ll see. I’ll do it, too.”
Mr, Jones! I love you, Mr. Jones!

In a letter to McPherson, Ralph Ellison wrote, “While others generalize about ‘The' Black man and ‘The’ white man, you’ve stuck to thorny human realities and individuals, some of whom triumph and some of whom fail, but most of whom are caught with the abiding confusion of good-and-bad.”

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