Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
The play, set in Philadelphia, begins with a rapping monologue delivered by the jive-talking “Zooman,” Lester Johnson, a teenage thug who has just killed a little girl in a gang shootout. “She was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he says, expressing no remorse for having killed the twelve-year-old. Zooman’s monologues continue to punctuate the action, but the main dramatic focus is upon the angry and grief-stricken family of Zooman’s victim.
Reuben Tate (a bus driver who has been estranged from his wife because of an affair with another woman) and his wife, Rachel, are mourning the death of their child Jinny; they are joined in their grief by Uncle Emmett and their fifteen-year-old son, Victor. Emmett is a hothead who argues for revenge, “an eye for an eye,” but Reuben is more restrained, exclaiming, “We’re not head hunters!” Rachel wrongly blames herself for having allowed the child to play outside. Victor says nothing in this argument but asks his friend Russell if he can find him a gun, which Russell agrees to do.
When a neighbor, Donald Jackson, stops by to offer condolences, the audience learns that Reuben had been a light-heavyweight boxer and something of a local celebrity of one time. Jackson tells Reuben that no one on the block would tell the police that they had seen anything. The Tate family knows that there were, in fact, witnesses, and they are disturbed by their neighbors’ silence.
(The entire section is 822 words.)
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