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- from Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg; p. 61: She could almost feel the ice-cold bullet shooting through her hot, troubled brain, freezing the pain for good. The sound of the gun blast would be the last sound she would ever hear. And then . . . nothing. Maybe just the silent sound that a bird might hear, flying in the clean, cool air, high above the earth. The sweet, pure air of freedom.
- p. 42: The night she and Ed went to their thirtieth high school reunion, she had been hoping she’d find someone to talk to about what she was feeling. But all the other women there were just as confused as she was, and held on to their husbands and their drinks to keep themselves from disappearing. Their generation seemed to be on a fence, not knowing which way to jump.
p. 318: He had mourned each of those great trains as, one by one, they were pulled off the lines and left to rust in some yard, like old aristocrats, fading away; antique relics of times gone by. And tonight he felt like one of the old trains . . .off the track . . . out of date . . . past the prime . . . useless.
Just yesterday, he overheard his grandson Mohammed Abdul Peavey telling his mother that he didn’t want to go anywhere with his grandaddy because he was embarrassed by the way he bowed and scraped to white people and the way he acted in church, still singing that old coon-shine, ragtime gospel music of his.
It was clear to Jasper that his time was over now, just like his old friends rusting out in the yards. He wished it could have been different; he had gotten through the only way he had known how. But he had gotten through.
- pp. 14-17 [DAVENPORT, IOWA—HOBO CAMP (OCTOBER 15, 1929)]: Five men sat huddled around a low-burning fire, orange and black shadows dancing on their faces as they drank weak coffee out of tin cans: Jim Smokey Phillips, Elmo Inky Williams, BoWeevil Jake, Crackshot Sackett, and Chattanooga Red Barker—five of the estimated two hundred thousand men and boys roaming the countryside that year.
Smokey Phillips looked up but said nothing, and the rest of them said the same. They were tired and weary that night, because that cold nip in the night air meant the start of another raw, heartless winter, and Smokey knew he would have to be starting south soon, with the great flocks of geese, just as he had done for so many years now.
He was born on a frosty morning, back up in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. His daddy, a knobby-legged man, a second-generation moonshiner who had fallen in love with his own product, made the fatal mistake of marrying a “good woman,” a plain country girl whose life revolved around the Pine Grove Free Will Baptist Church.
Most of Smokey’s childhood had been spent sitting on hard wooden benches for hours, with his little sister, Bernice, at all-day singings and foot washings.
In the regular church services, his mother had been one of the women who would occasionally stand up and start babbling, out of her head, in an unknown tongue.
Eventually, as she became more and more filled with the Spirit, his father became less so and stopped going to church altogether. He told his children, “I believe in God, but I don’t think you have to go crazy to prove it.”
Then, one spring when Smokey was eight, things got worse. His mother said that the Lord had told her that her husband was evil and devil-possessed, and she turned him in to the revenue agents.
Smokey remembered the day they brought his daddy down the path from the still with a gun at his back. As he passed by his wife, he looked at her, dumbfounded, and said, “Woman, don’t you know what you’ve done? You’ve done took the bread right out of your own mouth.”
It was the last Smokey ever saw of him.
After his father left, his mother really went off the deep end and got mixed up with a bunch of backwoods Holy Roller snake handlers. One night, after an hour of ranting and beating the Bible, the red-faced, wild-haired preacher got his barefoot congregation all excited. They were all chanting and stomping their feet when suddenly he reached into a potato sack and pulled out two huge rattlesnakes and started waving them around in the air; lost in the Spirit.
Smokey froze in his seat and squeezed his sister’s hand. The preacher was dancing around, calling out for believers to take up the serpent and cleanse their souls in the faith of Abraham when his mother ran up, grabbed one of the snakes away from him, and looked it right in the face. She began babbling in the unknown tongue, the whole time staring into the snake’s yellow eyes. Everybody in the room began to sway and moan. As she started to walk around the room with it, people began falling down on the floor, jerking and screaming and rolling around under the pews and up and down the aisles. The place was in a frenzy, while she babbled on . . . “HOSSA . . . HELAMNA . . . HESSAMIA . . .”
Before he knew what was happening, his little sister, Bernice, broke away from him, and ran up to her mother and pulled her by the hem of her dress.
“Momma, don’t . . . !”
Still wild-eyed and in a trance, she glanced down at her child for one split second, and in that second the rattler lunged and struck the woman in the side of her face. She looked back at the snake, stunned, and he struck again, fast and hard this time, striking her in the neck, the fangs puncturing her jugular vein. She dropped the angry serpent with a thud, and it crawled contemptuously away down the aisle.
His mother looked around the room that was now as silent as death, with a surprised look on her face, and as her eyes glazed over, she sank slowly to the floor. She was dead in less than a minute.
In that moment, his uncle had picked up Smokey and was headed out the door. Bernice went to live with a neighbor, and Smokey stayed at his uncle’s house. Then, when he was thirteen, he headed down the railroad tracks toward nowhere, and never came back.
The only thing he took was a photograph of his sister and him. He would take it out every once in awhile. There they were in the fading photograph, with their lips and cheeks painted pink: a little chubby girl with bangs and a pink ribbon tied around her head, wearing a tiny string of pearls; and he sat just behind her, his brown hair slicked down, his cheek pressed close to hers.
He often wondered how Bernice was doing and thought he’d look her up one of these days, if he ever got back on his feet.
When he was about twenty or so, he lost the picture when some railroad bull detective kicked him off a freight into a cold, yellow river somewhere in Georgia, and now he hardly ever thought about her; except when he happened to be on a train, passing through the Smoky Mountains at night, on his way to somewhere else . . .
- pp. 171-172 [Grady Kilgore (the local sheriff and part-time railroad detective”): “ . . . Some of your best people are murderers . . . I wouldn’t give you nickel for a thief. Now, a murder is usually just a one-time thing—mostly over some woman, not a repeat crime. But a thief is a thief until the day he dies . . . Naw, I don’t mind murderers. Most of ‘em are pretty mild-mannered, pleasant folks, as a rule.”
- p. 176: When Frank Bennett was growing up, he had adored his mother, to the point that it had disgusted his father, a bull of a man who thought nothing of knocking Frank out of a chair or kicking him down the stairs. His mother had been the only softness and sweetness he had known as a child and he loved her with all of his heart.
When he came home from school early one day, with some feigned illness, and found his mother and his father’s brother on the floor in the kitchen, all that love turned to hate in the five seconds before he screamed and ran out of the room: the five seconds that would haunt him for as long as he lived.
- p. 177 [old man (talking about Frank’s glass eye)]: “The left one was the only one with even a glimmer of human compassion in it.”
- p. 180 (Mrs. Virginia ‘Ninny’ Threadgoode): “ . . . Vesta Adcock has lost it. She came into our room about four o’clock this afternoon and grabbed up this little milk-glass slipper that Mrs. Otis keeps her hairpins in, and said, ‘The Lord said if the eye offends thee, pluck it out,’ and with that, she slung it out the window, hairpins and all, and then she left.
- p. 183: When Vesta Adcock was younger, someone had told her to speak up, and she never forgot it. You could hear Vesta through brick walls. The booming voice from that little woman traveled for blocks.
- p. 184: She picked out his [Vesta’s husband Earl Adcock’s] clothes, she picked out their friends, and flew at him like an enraged wild turkey the few times that he had tried to swat little Earl; eventually, he gave up.
- p. 185 (after Earl left): Vesta smacked a surprised Earl Jr. in the face and went to bed for a week with a cold rag on her head, while everyone in town secretly cheered Earl on.
- p. 363: Onzell said, “You better not wake yo daddy [Big George] up, boy, he’ll whup you within an inch of your life . . .” but Artis was already in the bedroom . . .’
- p. 282 [ROSE TERRACE NURSING HOME—OLD MONTGOMERY HIGHWAY, BIRMINGHAM ALABAMA—SEPTEMBER 7, 1986 (Ninny)]: “As sweet as she was, Onzell could be tough. She had to be, raising all those kids and working all day at the cafe. When Artis or Naughty Bird would get to pestering her, I’ve seen her backslap them out the door and never miss cutting a biscuit.
- p. 74: When Sipsey handed Onzell the twin boys she had just given birth to, she couldn’t believe her eyes. The oldest son, whom she named Jasper, was the color of a creamy cup of coffee, and the other one, named Artis, was black as coal.
Later, when Big George saw them, he about laughed his head off.
Sipsey was looking inside Artis’s mouth. “Lookie here, George dis baby done got blue gums,” and she shook her head in dismay. “God help us.”
But Big George, who was not superstitious, was still laughing . . .
Ten years later, he didn’t think it was so funny. He had just whipped Artis within an inch of his life for stabbing his brother Jasper with a penknife.
- p. 39 (Evelyn): She had tried to raise her son to be sensitive, but Ed had scared her so bad, telling her that he would turn out to be a queer, she had backed off and lost contact with him. Even now her son seemed like a stranger to her.
- Fried Green Tomatoes (in-class) essay (for English 20-1) by agape
Friendship has a certain timeless quality to it, and even in the modern world it can serve a variety of purposes that range from the therapeutic to the mundane or trivial. There are instances where friendship serves to validate one’s sense of identity, as well as instances in which it serves to protect and support one’s blindspots and unconsciousness. Then there are also those suffering, tormented people who struggle to form and maintain friendships and often live out their lives in a miserable anomic void of pain, loneliness, and confusion. In Fannie Flagg’s novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Smokey Lonesome and Idgie Threadgoode are two characters who early on in their lives shun and reject dependence, restrictions, and excess attachment, yet ultimately discover that they need love and friendship in their lives in order to survive and experience hope, joy, and happiness. Although for some people friendship can be elusive and difficult to obtain and hold on to, oftentimes friendship is the only thing that sustains people in times of hardship.
Smokey Lonesome had to endure a very unstable and chaotic childhood environment, and in his adult life friendship is one thing that keeps him grounded and tethered to the world of humanity, altruism, and emotions. Although he lost both of his parents due to his mother’s extreme religious fanaticism and was separated from his sister, Smokey is still able to encounter human kindness and innocence on his nomadic travels as a hobo. In Whistle Stop, Smokey goes to the Cafe where he meets Idgie who offers him free food, lets him shave in the washroom, and gives him some alcohol to drink to calm his nerves. This hospitality and generosity is life-affirming for Smokey and helps him cope with the reality of his rootless poverty-stricken situation. Although Idgie’s jokes and stories also help to cheer him up, Ruth’s beauty and angelic qualities also impel Smokey to develop a life-long love for Ruth which he cherishes as an idealistic inexpressible ineffable spiritual love as opposed to a mere physical one. If Smokey never experienced the support, care, and friendship of Idgie, Ruth, and Whistle Stop (which served as a metaphoric lighthouse for him), he might have never lived as long as he did nor had the strength, impetus, will, or desire to live his life in a relatively noble fashion and help others in the midst of a cruel and toxic world.
In Detroit, Smokey befriends a kid and tries to help and protect him. Before meeting Smokey, this homeless young man felt threatened by brutal abusive men who “tried to bugger him”. Being vulnerable and alone in an environment suffused with objectification, destitution, trauma, humiliation, and sadism, the young man sought the guidance and support of Smokey Lonesome. Before this young man’s life is tragically cut short, Smokey is able to fulfill his dream of watching a beautiful songstress/chanteuse perform. Were it not for Smokey, this young man’s days of homelessness would have been a waking nightmare and he might not have had any happiness or joy prior to his untimely demise at the hands of violent men. Although the friendship between Smokey and that young man was relatively brief and ephemeral, the sense of vital camaraderie, altruism, companionship, and kindness (agape) it imparted was eternal.
The character of Idgie Threadgoode is presented as an independent-thinking and occasionally impudent strong-willed woman, yet even in the aftermath of great loss Idgie discovers that she needs friendship to thrive. Idgie’s first cherished friendship is with her brother Buddy, whom “you could forgive anything”. Idgie and Buddy grow up in a family which has a strong atmosphere of tolerance, acceptance, and bonhomie. Although Buddy good-naturedly makes fun of the querulous Leona (who in certain respects is a character foil to Idgie), Leona does not hold a grudge or harbor resentment since Buddy is so “charming” and likeable. Because Idgie has the freedom to be who she wants to be, it is natural for her to find a best friend in Buddy, since he accepts her and allows her to feel comfort and self-esteem regarding her identity. When Buddy dies Idgie is devastated, and although her personality does not allow her to express her emotions ostentatiously, freely, or obviously, Idgie copes in her way by (temporarily) running away and dropping out of high school.
Although Buddy’s death has a somewhat detrimental impact on Idgie, she is still able to cultivate friendships with Eva Bates, African-American people from Troutville, and ultimately Ruth. One quality that is abundantly clear regarding Idgie is that she does not discriminate, and she feels just as home and comfortable with African-American people as she does with Caucasian people. Idgie is able to perceive that almost everyone has positive and negative qualities regardless of race, etc. although sometimes Idgie can only see the good in people. For example, while her spirit of generosity and bravery with Ocie Smith (regarding food) and with Big George’s daughter Naughty Bird (regarding the elephant) is admirable, Idgie overlooks and ignores the reality that, as kind and exceptional a man as Big George may be, both he and his wife Onzell hit their children (and have favourites) like the majority of parents, yet are surprised and shocked when Artis turns out to be violent at such an early age. And although Idgie seems to be doing the right thing when she offers the alcoholic Smokey whiskey and joins Eva Bates in drunken revelries, alcohol (especially in excess) can also be detrimental and insalubrious to the body and spirit. Ruth is the only one who has a particularly grounding and steadying effect on Idgie, and were it not for the friendship and solace that Idgie found with Ruth after Buddy’s death, Idgie’s life might have taken a turn for the worse and she may have not been able to accomplish all the good deeds she did during the Great Depression, nor with such a foundation of joy, love, felicity, and eudaemonism.
Friendship is so universal in the collective (nature) of humankind because it serves a purpose and probably also imparts evolutionary advantages of survival, happiness, and health. People look for meaning and fulfillment in their lives and one of the ways they attain that is through friendship. If friendship exists as an oasis from a world that often has the potential to degrade and humiliate a person, then friendship serves a beneficial purpose. On the other hand, if friendship is shallow and superficial or serves to reinforce the sense that committing destructive acts with impunity is normal and good, then friendship can also be seen in a more negative light as well. Since the novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe predominantly portrays friendship in the positivist humanist and humanitarian sense, it can serve as a beacon for those who often lack the confidence, socialization, and general health and well-being to form real friendships. Ultimately a life without true friendship can often serve to hinder one’s efforts of healing, individuation, and growth.
- Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe Creative Assignment: Evelyn’s Journal Entries (by agape)
First Journal Entry (December 29, 1986):
Recently I have been accompanying my husband on his trips to the Rose Terrace Nursing
Home to visit his mother. It was on that first trip that I met a somewhat eccentric yet amiable
elderly woman. Had it not been for my disinclination to stay in my mother-in-law’s room while
my husband visited her, I might have never had the opportunity to meet this charming woman.
Ever since my mother died, I have dreaded having to go anywhere that is redolent “of
sickness and Lysol and death.” (Flagg, 56). Honestly, I wasn’t expecting anyone to strike up a
conversation with me. I was just sitting there eating a chocolate bar and minding my own
business when out of the blue this old lady started chatting my ear off. Her voice had an
interesting cadence and a strikingly melodious quality to it combined with colourful intonation
When she first started talking I didn’t really pay much attention, but I think I recall her
mentioning that her name is Mrs. Threadgoode and that she’s eighty-six years old. Now I
remember—some of the things she said about life and death kind of hit home actually. Like
everyone else, I’ve struggled with coming to terms with my own mortality. I have been
questioning the purpose of my life and wondering if there is any meaning, sense, and rhyme or
reason to it. After my mother died of cancer, I’ve become consumed by the fear that there might
be an enemy in my body too, just waiting for the right moment to strike. Trying to escape from
this sense of profound vulnerability, hopelessness, helplessness, mal de vivre, and paralysis has
seemed next to impossible of late.
One of the things Mrs. Threadgoode said that really resonated with me was this: “ . . . when
you’re a child you think time will never go by, but when you hit about twenty, time passes like
you’re on the fast train to Memphis.” (Flagg, 4). Mrs. Threadgoode never learned how to drive,
yet I feel like I have never been in the driver’s seat my entire life. I’ve just blindly and passively
accepted everything; everything I was told, I believed.
While it was kind of refreshing to hear this enthusiastic old spirit go on and on and wax
nostalgic and ebullient about her past, I almost forgot how talkative old people (who are
extraverted and energetic) can be. I found it hard to believe it when she told me that she “never
did talk much until after [she] hit [her] fifties”. (9). One thing she said that really provoked my
attention and startled me was when she suddenly mentioned that one of the women she knew
from her past had been suspected by some of having murdered a man. I did not really find the
rest of what she said that day to be as captivating—something about that woman and April
Fool’s day, I think. For the life of me I cannot remember her name. Nevertheless, I wasn’t
disappointed, because today Mrs. Threadgoode continued this colourful engrossing saga in her
own unique, entertaining and conversational way.
Second Journal Entry (January 19, 1986):
I haven’t had much contact with my children of late. My son, Tommy, has become so distant
and alien to me. Last I heard, he was selling drugs—marijuana I think. I remember my daughter
Janice once let me try a joint—that’s what she called it—and it induced a most frightening and
grotesque hallucination. Janice said that I am probably mentally hypersensitive to drugs.
Anyway, I digress. I can still remember what Mrs. Threadgoode said (about some of her
fellow residents at the nursing home) a month ago: “Having children is no guarantee that you’ll
get visitors”. (Flagg, 25). What will happen if I end up in a nursing home some day? Will my
children ever visit me? Would they really want to? Just thinking about it makes me feel even
Over the past months I’ve allowed myself to succumb to the darkest depths of despair, and it
was Mrs. Threadgoode that helped me escape from that black hole. I guess she has helped me to
develop a healthier and more positive perspective of life. All these stories from her past that
she’s been sharing are kind of rejuvenating and invigorating in a way. While I could try to
analyze how my hypochondria might be a neurotic manifestation stemming from more profound
fears and losses I find difficult to confront, I’ve found that just talking to Mrs. Threadgoode has
helped me more than any book, website, therapist, or doctor ever has. Most doctors seem so
impersonal and clinical—consumed by the conventional and monetary restrictions and demands
of their work, discipline, and schedule. Yet Mrs. Threadgoode has so much joie de vivre and
vigour, and I feel so liberated and youthful from my interaction with her and being in her
presence. I’ve almost forgotten how I had almost been on the verge of suicide.
Lately I’ve felt so burdened and suffocated by my worries, loneliness, and
disappointments that I failed to see the point of continuing to exist in a world that seems to have
no place for me. Yet Mrs. Threadgoode’s warmth and sincerity opened my eyes. I can no longer
feel responsible for my children’s choices after they “went off to college”. (65). What with my
son dabbling in the urban criminal underworld as a small-time drug dealer, and my daughter
taking up stripping as a potentially lucrative supplementary hobby or vocation, I’ve had it up to
here with having to deal with the fallout from my family’s ignorant and misguided decisions.
Being in the company of Mrs. Threadgoode has opened my eyes. I have often felt that I could
no longer carry the cross that I bear, yet Mrs. Threadgoode recognized that my depression might
also be caused by menopause. I had never considered that. Her encouragement and advice were a
real boon and blessing to me. I’m finally motivated to change my life for the better. She told me
to read the Bible and go to church and take vitamin B-12 and I plan to do all of those things and
more. I’m so grateful for her wisdom and I feel like she is my second mother. I no longer have to
rely and trust in my husband’s stupid prejudices and advice, like when he told me that I would
cause my son to become effeminate and effete by trying to reach out to him and impart some of
my own values and empathy. From now on I choose to listen to my heart and to face my
“sorrowful burdens” (Fannie Flagg, 68) with bravery and courage, and whenever I feel like
giving in to my weaknesses—inertia, entropy, self-defeat, self-pity—I will think of Mrs.
Threadgoode and her stories about the town of Whistle Stop.
Flagg, Fannie. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. New York: Random House,
1987. 4, 9, 25, 56, 65, 68.
- from Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg pp. 119-120 [BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA (SLAGTOWN)—DECEMBER 30, 1934]: He [Artis Peavey] had found it: Here it was, those twelve square blocks, better known as Slagtown . . . Birmingham’s own Harlem of the South, the place he had dreamed about.
Couples began moving past him, all dressed up, talking and laughing on their way to somewhere; and he was being pulled along with them, like a whitecap floating on the crest of a wave. Music throbbed out of every door and window and spilled down flights of stairs into the streets. The voice of Bessie Smith wailed from an upstairs window, “Oh, careless love . . . Oh, careless love . . .”
Hot jazz and blues were melting together as he passed by the Frolic Theater, which boasted to be the finest colored theater in the South, featuring only musicals and high comedy.
And the people kept on moving. . . Down the block, Ethel Waters sang and asked the musical question, “What did I do to be so black and blue?” While next door, Ma Rainey shouted out “Hey, Jailor, tell me what have I done?” . . . And people in the Silver Moon Blue Note Club were doing the shimmy-sham-shimmy to Art Tatum’s “Red Hot Pepper Stomp.”
- p. 120: Blacks, tans, cinnamons, octoroons, reds and dukes mixtures, moving Artis down the street, all dressed in suits of lime green and purple, sporting two-toned yellow-and-tan brogans and thin red-and-white silk ties, while the ladies, with gleaming deep maroon and tangerine lips and swinging hips, were promenading in spectator pumps and red fox furs . . . Two doors down, he saw dancing couples through the window of the Black and Tan Ballroom, where amber spotlights lazily searched the room, turning the couples a pale purple as they floated by.
- p. 121: Near the Casino Club at the Masonic Temple, a large-breasted beauty behind him, resplendent in a corn-colored satin dress, wearing a lemon-yellow feather boa, squealed and swung her purse at a fleet-footed gentleman and missed. The gentleman laughed, and Artis laughed, too, as he continued on down the street with the crowd; he knew he was home at last.
- p. 227 [10th AVENUE (CHICAGO, ILLINOIS—NOVEMBER 20, 1940)]: It was raining in Chicago, and Artis O. Peavey was running down the street . . . Across the street, at the RKO Alhambra, Dealers in Crime and Hoodlum Empire were showing. He felt like a fugitive, himself, up here, away from home, hiding out from a dusky damsel named Electra Greene.
He stood there, smoking a Chesterfield cigarette and contemplating life and its turmoils.
- p. 228: This skinny little man, so black he was a deep royal blue, had caused a lot of trouble for the opposite sex. One gal drank a can of floor wax and topped it off with a cup of Clorox, trying to separate herself from the same world he was in. When she survived, claiming that the liquids had ruined her complexion for life, he became continually uneasy after dark, because she had snuck up behind him more than once and cracked him in the head with a purseful of rocks.
- pp. 228-229: He missed Birmingham and he wanted to go back.
Every afternoon, before his hasty exit from Birmingham, he had driven his blue two-toned Chevrolet with the white-wall tires up Red Mountain and had parked to watch the sunset . . . There had been nothing more beautiful to him than the city at that hour, when the sky was washed with a red-and-purple glow from the mills and neon lights would start coming on all over town, twinkling and dancing throughout the downtown streets and over to Slagtown.
Birmingham, the town that during the Depression had been named by FDR “the hardest hit city in the U.S.” . . . Birmingham, which at one time had the highest illiteracy rate, more venereal disease than any other city in America, and at the same time proudly held the record for having the highest number of Sunday School students of any city in the U.S. . . . where Imperial Laundry trucks had once driven around town with WE WASH FOR WHITE PEOPLE ONLY written on the side, and where darker citizens still sat behind wooden boards on street cars that said COLORED and rode freight elevators in department stores.
Birmingham, Murder Capital of the South, where 131 people had been killed in 1931 alone . . .
All this, and yet Artis loved his Birmingham with an insatiable passion, from the south side to the north side, in the freezing-cold rainy winter, when the red clay would slide down the sides of hills and run into the streets, and in the lush green summers when the green kudzu vine covered the sides of the mountains and grew up trees and telephone poles and the air was moist and heavy with the smell of gardenias and barbecue . . . If there is such a thing as complete happiness, it is knowing that you are in the right place, and Artis had been completely happy from the moment he hit Birmingham.
- p. 231 [SLAGTOWN NEWS FLOTSAM & JETSAM (BY MR. MILTON JAMES)—NOVEMBER 25, 1950]: Miss Electra Greene, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. R. C. Greene, became the charming bride of Mr. Artis O. Peavey, son of Mr. and Mrs. George Peavey, of Whistle Stop, Alabama.
- pp. 245-246 [WHISTLE STOP, ALABAMA (JANUARY 12, 1944)]: Sweet Willie Boy, Wonderful Counselor Peavey, the boy who had been accepted at Tuskegee Institute . . . the smart one, the one who was going to be a lawyer, a leader of his people, a shining light from the back roads of Alabama to Washington, D.C. Willie Boy, the one who had the chance to make it, had gotten himself killed after a bar fight by a black soldier named Winston Lewis from Newark, New Jersey.
Willie Boy had been talking about his daddy, Big George, who, whenever his name was mentioned down home, blacks and whites alike would always say, “Now, there’s a man.”
But Winston Lewis had said that any man working for whites, especially in Alabama, was nothing but a low-down, ignorant, stupid shuffling Uncle Tom.
In order to survive, Willie Boy had been trained not to react to insults and to disguise even the tiniest glimmer of aggressiveness or anger. But tonight, when Winston spoke, he thought of his daddy and crashed a beer bottle into the soldier’s face and sent him sprawling on the floor, out like a light.
The next night, while he was asleep, Willie Boy’s throat had been cut from ear to ear; Winston Lewis then went A.W.O.L. The army didn’t much care; they had pretty much had it with the knife fights among the colored troops, and Willie Boy was sent home in a box.
- pp. 246-247: The preacher preached about Jesus taking only His precious children home early to be with Him, and talked about the will of the Almighty Father Who sits on the golden throne in heaven. The congregation swayed and responded with, “Yes, sir, His will be done.”
Artis answered the preacher along with the rest of them, and he swayed in his seat while he watched his mother scream in agony; but after the service, he did not go to the graveyard. While Willie Boy was being lowered into that cold Alabama red-clay grave, Artis had hopped a train and was on his way to Newark, New Jersey. He was looking for someone named Mr. Winston Lewis to cut.
. . . Three days later, Winston Lewis’s heart was found in a paper sack several blocks from his residence.
- pp. 269-270 [SLAGTOWN, ALABAMA (Tin Top Alley)—OCTOBER 17, 1949]: Recreation was plentiful because the walls were so thin that you could enjoy your neighbor’s radio or phonograph along with them; when Bessie Smith sang on somebody’s Victrola, “I ain’t got nobody,” everybody in Tin Top Alley felt sorry for her.
The area was certainly not lacking in other social activities, and Artis was invited to all of them; he was the most popular man in the alley, with men and women alike.
- p. 270: . . . a skinny, mangy yellow dog came loping around the alley, scrounging for something eat; he belonged to After John, a friend of Artis’s, named such because he had been born after his brother John.
. . . The Depression had never ended here, and dogs were in it too, for better or for worse; and most times for the worse . . .
The friendly, unsuspecting dog ran over to him and in a second was in the net, flipped over on his back, and was being carried to the truck.
- p. 271: Artis began to plead, because he knew that once that dog got down to the city pound, there wasn’t a chance in hell of ever getting him back; particularly if you were black.
“Please, mister, let me go and call him. He works over at Five Points, fo’ Mr. Fred Jones, making ice cream . . .”
“Oh please, suh, After John is jes’ a simpleminded boy no woman would marry and that dog is all he’s got. I don’t know what he’d do if anything happened to that dog of his. He’s liable to kill hisself.”
- p. 273 (Artis): “I wasn’t able to reach him, but if you could just ride me over to Five Points, I could get him . . .”
“Naw, we’re not gonna do that. We already wasted enough time with you, boy,” and he began to untie the dog and put him in the back.
Artis was desperate. “Naw suh, I jes’ cain’t let you do it.”
He reached in his pocket, and before either one of the men knew what had happened, he had sliced the rope holding the dog in half with the four-inch switchblade, and yelled, “Scat!”
Artis turned around and watched the grateful dog scamper around the corner, and was smiling when the blackjack hit him behind his left ear.
TEN YEARS FOR THE ATTEMPTED MURDER OF A CITY OFFICIAL WITH A DEADLY WEAPON. It would have been thirty if those two men had been white.
- p. 280 (Artis): . . . ran down the street, laughing so happy to be back where he belonged. [Birmingham]
- p. 293 [BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA (May 24, 1949)]: Birmingham’s black middle- and upper-class society was at its peak, and the Slagtown News was kept busy reporting on the doings of over a hundred social clubs; the lighter the skin, the better the club.
Mrs. Blanche Peavey, Jasper’s wife, who was as light in color as he was, had just been named president of the famous Royal Saxon Society Belles Social and Saving Club, an organization whose members were of such fair coloring that the club’s annual group picture had wound up in the white newspaper by mistake.
Jasper had just been reelected as Grand Vice Chancellor of the prestigious Knights of Pythias, so it was only natural that his oldest daughter, Clarissa, was a leading debutante that year and was being presented to the Carnation Coalition.
- p. 294 (Clarissa): She knew her mother and daddy would kill her if they knew she was downtown passing, for although she was encouraged to mingle only with the lighter-skinned people, passing for a white was an unpardonable sin. But she was tired of the stares of the other blacks when she rode the freight elevator before; and besides, she was in a hurry.
- pp. 294-295: Artis, who had had a few drinks and didn’t know Clarissa was passing for white that day, put his hand on her arm. “It’s me, your Uncle Artis, honey . . . don’t you know me?”
The perfume saleslady came around the corner, saw Artis and shrieked, “YOU GET AWAY FROM HER!” She ran to Clarissa and held her. “YOU GET AWAY FROM HER . . . HARRY! HARRY!”
The floor manager came running. “What’s the matter?”
Still holding on to Clarissa to protect her, she shouted for the entire floor to hear, “THIS ****** WAS PAWING MY CUSTOMER! HE WAS GRABBING AT HER! I SAW HIM!”
Harry yelled, “GUARD!” and turned on Artis with slits for eyes. “Did you touch this white woman, boy?”
Artis was shocked. “Naw suh, that’s my niece.”
Artis tried to explain, but by that time, the guard had spun him around like a top and had his arm behind him and he was on his way out the back door.
- pp. 310-311 [THE MARTIN LUTHER KING MEMORIAL BAPTIST CHURCH (1049 4TH AVENUE NORTH—BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA)—SEPTEMBER 21, 1986]: Evelyn had never been a religious person, but this day she was lifted from her seat and rose high above the fear that had been holding her down.
She felt her heart open and fill with the pure wonder of being alive and making it through.
She floated up to the altar, where a white Jesus, wan and thin, wearing a crown of thorns, looked down from the crucifix at her and said, “Forgive them, my child, they know not what they do . . .”
Mrs. Threadgoode had been right. She had taken her troubles to the Lord, and she had been relieved of them.
Evelyn took a deep breath and the heavy burden of resentment and hate released itself into thin air, taking Towanda along with them. She was free! And in that moment she forgave the boy at the supermarket, her mother’s doctor, and the girls in the parking lot . . . and she forgave herself. She was free. Free; just like these people here today, who had come through all that suffering and had not let hate and fear kill their spirit of love.
- pp. 311-312: It would have been wonderful if she could have told everyone in the church how much that day had meant to her.
It would have been wonderful, too, if Evelyn had known that the young woman who shook her hand had been the eldest daughter of Jasper Peavey, pullman porter, who, like herself, had made it through.
- p. 313 [SOUTHERN RAILROAD NEWS—JUNE 1, 1950 (Railroad Employee of the Month)]: This genial porter (Jasper Q. Peavey) has been receiving commendations since he started working for the railways at age 17, as a redcap at the Terminal station in Birmingham, Alabama. Since then, he has been cook, freight trucker, station porter, dining car waiter, parlor car porter, and was promoted to pullman porter in 1935.
- p. 314: Jasper is a lay pastor at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, and is the father of four daughters. Two of them are teachers, one of them is studying to be a nurse, and the youngest is planning to go to New York and study music.
- pp. 316-317 [OUTSIDE OF ROANOKE, VIRGINIA (PULLMAN CAR NO. 16—DECEMBER 23, 1958)]: Jasper had come to Birmingham a year later than his brother Artis, and although they were twins and both classified as Negro under the law, they had lived two entirely different lives.
Jasper had loved his brother, but hardly ever saw him.
Artis had quickly found a place among the fast, racy set down on 4th Avenue North . . . Jasper had . . . attended church at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church the first Sunday he was in Birmingham. It was there that Miss Blanch Maybury had caught the eye of and took a shine to this creamy boy with his mother’s freckles. Blanch was the only daughter of Mr. Charles Maybury, a respected citizen, well-known educator, and principal of the Negro high school, so it was through her that Jasper was automatically admitted to the exclusive, upper-middle-class black society.
- p. 317: After the Klan had blown up Jasper’s and several of his neighbors’ red brick homes, some had left, but he had stayed. He had endured years of “Hey, Sambo,” “Hey, boy,” “Hey, George,” emptied cuspidors, cleaned bathrooms, shined shoes, and lifted so much luggage that he couldn’t sleep from the pain in his back and shoulders. He had often cried in humiliation when something was stolen and the railroad officials searched the pullman porters’ lockers first.
He had “yes sirred” and “yes ma’amed” and smiled and brought loud-mouthed salesmen liquor in the middle of the night, had taken abuse from arrogant white women and been called ****** by children, had been treated like dirt by some of the white conductors, and had had his tips stolen by other porters. He had cleaned up after sick strangers and passed through Cullman County a hundred times, with the sign that warned, ****** . . . DON’T LET THE SUN SET ON YOUR HEAD.
He had endured all this.
- p. 318: If his brother Artis had been in love with a town, Jasper was in love with trains.
- p. 365 (December 13, 1930—after Frank Bennett’s death): Artis stayed in the shed all night, nervous and excited, rocking back and forth on his haunches. Along around four o’clock, he couldn’t resist; he opened his knife and, in the pitch dark, struck the body under the sheet—once, twice, three, four times—and on and on.
About sunup, the door creaked open and Artis peed on himself. It was his daddy.
- pp. 365-366: While Artis was digging the hole, he couldn’t help but smile. He had a secret. A powerful secret that he would have as long as he lived. Something that would give him power when he was feeling weak. Something that only he and the devil knew. The thought of it made him smile with pleasure. He would never have to feel the anger, the hurt, the humiliation of the others, ever again. He was different. He would always be set apart. He had stabbed himself a white man . . .
And whenever any white folks gave him any grief, he could smile inside. I stabbed me one of you already . . .
- pp. 370-371 [HOTEL DE LUXE ROOMS FOR GENTLEMEN—8th AVENUE NORTH—BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA (JULY 7, 1979)]: He [Artis O. Peavey] had been able to forget the insults, and the way his manhood had been cut off in the minds of the whites. But somehow, it was that very dismissal that made it go at it with a vengeance, just to prove that he as a man did exist.
. . . he was not cursed with a driving desire to break his back earning the green stuff. He was just as happy with a pocket full of shiny dimes and quarters, won in the elusive game, known in the back alleys as the Galloping Dots, Seven-Come-Eleven, Snake-Eyes.
- p. 372: Artis tapped his foot on the floor three times and, magically, the movie changed. He is a little boy now, and his momma is cooking in the back of the cafe . . .Oh, don’t get in Momma’s way, she slap you out the door . . . There’s Naughty Bird and Willie Boy . . . and sweet Jasper . . .
Some characters from the novel and my typings:
Evelyn Couch: EII (Fi-INFj) or at least XXFj
Mrs. Cleo Threadgoode: ESE (Fe-ESFj)
Idgie Threadgoode: SLE (Se-ESTp)
Ruth: IEI (Ni-INFp)
Artis Peavey: SLE-Ti?
Vesta Adcock: EIE (Fe-ENFj)
Jasper Peavey: LSI?
Last edited by HERO; 10-10-2012 at 12:28 AM.