Summary and Analysis Chapters 4-5


As speaker, Maya describes the rigidly segregated social milieu of Stamps, with its alien "whitefolksville" and despicable, twangy-voiced "powhitetrash." She delineates her relationship with relatives near and distant, but never strays far from her brother, Bailey, the center and mainstay of her scattered family. She loves him for being "small, graceful and smooth," executing petty larcenies from the pickle barrel without getting caught, and, most important, accepting her in spite of her lack of physical beauty. With unabashed hyperbole, she dubs him "my Kingdom Come."

In Chapter 5, the unpalatable memory of Momma's humiliation by coarse, impudent white girls forces out a greater exaggeration: "The world had taken a deep breath and was having doubts about continuing to revolve." The sharp, stabbing memory of seeing her godly, longsuffering grandmother shamed by so slatternly a trio as "Miz Ruth," "Miz Helen," and "Miz Eloise" elevates Momma, whose real beauty lies in her resigned chorus of "Glory, glory, hallelujah, when I lay my burden down." With the beneficence of childhood, Maya shapes concentric hearts in the dust and pierces them with a love arrow, emblematic of her bond with the strongest female figure in her life.


Texarkana twin cities on the border of Texas and Arkansas.

clabbered milk curdled, or soured milk.

cat-o'-nine-tails a whip fashioned from loose strands which end in knots that leave clawlike marks on a victim's body.

pooched out protruded.