Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Bang the Drum Slowly is not a sequel to The Southpaw (1953), even though many of the characters in Mark Harris’s earlier novel reappear in this second novel narrated by Henry W. Wiggen (the full title is Bang the Drum Slowly by Henry W. Wiggen: Certain of His Enthusiasms Restrained by Mark Harris). When references are made to The Southpaw, those passages are reprinted in Bang the Drum Slowly. Henry Wiggen, who tells the story, is a star pitcher for the New York Mammoths. Bruce Pearson, his roommate and the third-string catcher for the Mammoths, is dying of Hodgkin’s disease. The novel begins as Bruce calls Henry from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to tell him that he must come to see him, and it ends with a winning season for the Mammoths and Bruce’s death. After Bruce checks out of the hospital, Henry and Bruce drive to Bruce’s hometown of Bainbridge, Georgia. The principal activities in Bainbridge are waiting for the mail and swatting flies on the front porch. The high point of the visit for Bruce is learning to play Tegwar, a game in which the rules change all the time and the object is to keep a straight face. Bruce wants to continue to play ball as long as he can. Realizing that Lester T. Moors, Jr., the owner, and Dutch Schnell, the manager, would release Bruce if they knew of his illness, Henry and Bruce decide to keep it a secret. When Henry negotiates his contract for the year, he includes a...
(The entire section is 431 words.)
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