Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a novel that discusses several different topics. The story is about two women who meet in a nursing home. They strike up a friendship and the older woman tells the story of her family, particularly the lives of two other women, Ruth and Idgie.
Whistle Stop is the name of a very small town in rural Alabama on one of the main trunks of several railroads. Ruth and Idgie’s story takes place in the early 1900’s in and around the cafe that they own. Using flashbacks, Flagg re-creates these women’s lives and experiences from the flapper era of the 1920’s to the women’s movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Big George and his mother Sipsey are the African Americans who have the responsibility of taking care of Idgie’s family. They are the household help that are part of the family. As the story continues readers learn about Big George’s family and their relation with Ruth’s son Buddy, named after a favorite brother of Idgie who was killed in a train accident. Young Buddy is called Stump because he lost one arm in another train accident.
One of the earmarks of the novel is the rural slang used to make the story more credible, the appearance of the Ku Klux Klan at various times to remind readers of the culture of racism of the South at that time, and the predominance of the theme that all people have a responsibility to care for all who are in need. The train brings...
(The entire section is 388 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Part I Summary
Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café weaves together the past and the present in a story of the blossoming friendship between Evelyn Couch, a middle-aged housewife, and Ninny Threadgoode, an elderly woman who lives in a nursing home. Every week Evelyn visits Ninny, who recounts her memories of Whistle Stop, Alabama where her sister-in-law Idgie and her friend Ruth ran a café. These stories, along with Ninny's friendship, enable Evelyn to begin a new, satisfying life.
The novel opens with a 1929 column from The Weems Weekly, Whistle Stop, Alabama's weekly newspaper, announcing the opening of the Whistle Stop Café, run by owners Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison, with cooking done by "two colored women," Onzell and Sipsey, and barbecue by Onzell's husband, Big George. The narrative then jumps to December 1985 when Evelyn arrives at the Rose Terrace Nursing Home in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband, Ed, to visit Big Momma, his mother. As Evelyn sits in the visitors' lounge eating candy bars, she meets Ninny, who begins to tell stories about the Threadgoode family. Flagg intersperses descriptions of the past, gained through Ninny's memories and columns from The Weems Weekly, with the story of the developing friendship between Ninny and Evelyn. Ninny explains that she grew up next to the Threadgoodes and married Cleo, one of their boys. Most of her stories focus on Idgie, who "used to do all kinds of crazy...
(The entire section is 482 words.)
Part II Summary
Ruth married Frank, a vain man filled with hatred and bitterness after discovering his mother's affair with his uncle. When Idgie heard rumors that Frank was beating Ruth, she threatened his life. In her fourth year of marriage, Ruth sent Idgie a note suggesting that she was ready to leave Frank. Idgie and Big George then returned a pregnant Ruth to Whistle Stop and learned of Frank's brutal treatment of her. A few years later when Frank was reported missing, sheriffs questioned everyone at the café, but no one would admit to knowing or seeing him. One sheriff later returned and let Idgie know she was heard threatening Frank. He admitted that no one would care if Frank were dead, but whoever did it should cover her tracks.
Evelyn feels "in control" after being on her diet for nine days, but when a boy is rude to her at a supermarket, she crumbles, feeling "old and fat and worthless all over again." In response, she establishes an imaginary self she calls "Towanda the Avenger," who in her fantasies destroys all the mean people in the world. One day two young girls steal a parking spot Evelyn had been waiting for. When the driver won't give up the space, declaring, "I'm younger and faster than you," Evelyn rams her car, explaining, "I'm older than you are and have more insurance." Evelyn admits that she is always angry except when she is with Ninny "and when she would visit Whistle Stop at night in her mind. Towanda was taking over her life...and she knew...
(The entire section is 315 words.)
Part III Summary
Ninny concludes stories of some Whistle Stop residents. Willie Peavey, Onzell's and Big George's son, was killed by a black man in a bar, just before he was to come home from serving in World War II. Willie's brother Artis found the man and killed him. Artis was sent to jail after he was seen freeing a dog caught by the dogcatcher, but Idgie and Grady helped get him out. Years later, Artis died in a Birmingham flophouse lobby. After watching Ruth endure excruciating pain from terminal cancer, Onzell, who had not left her side during the entire ordeal, gave her enough morphine to end her suffering.
When Frank's truck was discovered near Whistle Stop about twenty-five years after he was declared missing, Idgie and Big George were accused of his murder. At the trial, Reverend Scroggins, whom Idgie had harassed for years, told the court she and George were at a tent revival the night Frank was reported missing. The reverend lied for Idgie because she had helped get his son out of jail. The judge knew the testimony was a lie, but he closed the case citing lack of evidence. Ninny tells Evelyn that Sipsey killed Frank when he came into the café one night and tried to sneak out with Ruth's baby. Afterwards, Big George cooked Frank's remains in his...
(The entire section is 402 words.)