Push: A Novel Summary

Extended Summary

The character Claireece “Precious” Jones narrates her gripping, disturbing life story in the novel Push. Precious states that she was held back the second time in school when she was twelve because she was pregnant with her father’s child. Precious then reveals that she is pregnant again by her father. Her first child, a girl, was born with Down Syndrome and is in the care of her grandmother. Although she is pregnant with her second child and is now two years behind the rest of her class, Precious continues to attend school, hoping that she will have a “break-through” one day and that letters and words on her textbooks’ pages will make sense to her. She is in the ninth grade when she begins writing her story, and the date is September 24, 1987. As Precious is on her way to math class with Mr. Wincher (the only class that she likes), the principal, Mrs. Lichenstein, calls her to her office to discuss her future. Precious is naturally defensive, and the meeting ends with her being suspended for threatening the principal.

After her suspension, Precious stands at the sink washing dishes and flashes back to when she had her first child at the age of twelve. At that time, she is washing dishes too, when her mother pounces on her and begins beating and kicking her because she discovers Precious’s condition and believes that her daughter has seduced “her man.” Fortunately, a neighbor hears twelve-year-old Precious’s screams and calls 911. When the EMTs arrive, Precious is in full labor and remembers a Hispanic EMT soothing her and telling her to “push.” From this point on in her life Precious uses his command to push to get through her most difficult experiences.

When Precious is in the hospital as a twelve year old, the nurses are shocked not only to discover her age but also to find out that Precious’s father is the father of her child. After Precious’s first delivery, the nurse brings Precious’s child in to see her but explains that she has Down Syndrome. The young mother begins to cry for her child and because of the abuse she has endured since she was seven from her parents. After she returns home, Precious faces even more physical and sexual abuse from her mother.

A buzz from the intercom system brings Precious back to present day, and she realizes that her principal, Mrs. Lichenstein, has fulfilled her threat to make a “house visit.” Although Precious and her mom do not want to talk to the principal, she persists and gives Precious information about an alternative school that has a spot for her. Precious’s mom discourages her from attending, but Precious has made up her mind that this time things will be different for her and her unborn child.

Precious leaves the apartment early one morning in October to begin her new life at the alternative school. As she heads to school, all of Precious’s insecurities overwhelm her. She has endured a lifetime of ridicule from fellow students along with abuse from her parents; she wonders if anything will ever be different. As she enters the classroom, she meets her teacher, Ms. Blue Rain, and the other girls who are interested in earning their GEDs but who need a beginner’s class first. The six girls in Precious’s class begin by telling about themselves, which makes Precious want to confess to Miz Rain that she can’t read—that all the letters on pages look the same to her. At the end of the first day, Miz Rain calls each girl into her office to assess their reading levels, and Precious finally confesses that she can’t make sense of the words. Miz Rain reassures her, and Precious begins to see learning as an escape from her unbearable situation. On the second day of school, Miz Rain gives each girl a journal and tells them to write what they are thinking in the journal. Precious does her best to write letters that sound like the words in her head. After Precious writes a sentence, Miz Rain writes the words correctly below hers and then writes a sentence back to Precious. This begins months of dialogue between teacher and student as Precious begins to write words...

(The entire section is 1676 words.)