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In Draper's Tears of a Tiger, why do "old white ladies" in particular always "freak...

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thorn01 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 30, 2011 at 9:59 PM via web

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In Draper's Tears of a Tiger, why do "old white ladies" in particular always "freak out" when Andy and his friends yell at them from Andy's car?

"... yellin' out the window at old white ladies--it always freaks 'em out. . ."

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K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted October 22, 2011 at 2:37 AM (Answer #1)

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The reference to "old White ladies" who freak out is in Tyrone's statement to the police. The characters in the story attend Hazelwood High School in a town that has a mixed population. There are people, like the "old white ladies," who have a sense of social decorum and there are people, like the basketball players, who speak in a dialect among themselves (often referred to as a slang) and who don't have such a strong sense of social decorum. It is this cultural divide that is behind the reaction the ladies have to the young men in the car.

So, we get in the car...yeah, Andy's car, and we start drivin' around, you know, just foolin' around, havin' a good time, yellin' out the window at old white ladies--it always freaks 'em out. . .Yeah, we was drinkin' ... we had put about four six-packs in the trunk of Andy's car ... Yeah, all of us was drinkin', ... Andy probably had the most.

Part of the young men's violation of social decorum was that they were driving around while drunk, which means that the good time they were having was a loud and illegal one. This would be enough to "freak out" old ladies, if by "freak out" we understand that the women are shocked, offended at being intruded upon, and outraged at dangerous behavior.

Additionally, there might be an unstated implication of racial tension. That the rowdy young men were young African American men and the women old and white may indicate that the freaked out women perceived some personal threat or some social threat from the group's behavior. If this were the case, then the old white women would have had grounds for fear of social harm because the young men did, in fact, push their youthful immortality too far and kill (accidentally but nonetheless thoroughly) one of their own.

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