In Chapter One of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel If Beale Street Could Talk , Clementine, called Tish, doesn’t actually tell her mother that she’s pregnant; she basically allows her mother’s intuition to draw the right conclusion from Tish’s behavior. Tish is not a child; she’s 19-years old, but she’s...
In Chapter One of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel If Beale Street Could Talk, Clementine, called Tish, doesn’t actually tell her mother that she’s pregnant; she basically allows her mother’s intuition to draw the right conclusion from Tish’s behavior. Tish is not a child; she’s 19-years old, but she’s still economically and emotionally dependent upon her parents, especially her mother. When she find out she’s expecting a baby, like many teenagers and young adults in similar circumstances, she fears her family’s reaction. As she approaches the end of her first trimester, however, she knows that her physical appearance will be sufficiently transformed in the near future to allow for anyone to see the nature of her condition, and knows her mother suspects something. In the following sentence, Tish describes the moment in the kitchen when she knows it’s time to tell her mother:
“Then, I realized that I’m into my third month, I’ve got to tell. Nothing shows yet, but one day Mama’s going to give me another sharp look.”
Mama guides her daughter into a bedroom, where they sit down for a mother-daughter talk, in which is made clear that Tish never utters the words “I’m pregnant,” instead acknowledging through her actions and demeanor that her mother’s suspicions are correct:
“We went into her room and sat down on the bed and Mama closed the door. She didn't touch me. She just sat very still. It was like she had to be very together because I had gone to pieces. She said, "Tish, I declare. I don't think you got nothing to cry about." She moved a little. "You tell Fonny?"
The correct answer to the question – what does Mama bring Tish in this moment – is a modified version of (d):
The doorbell rang. I heard Mama yell, “Be right there!” and then she came into the room again.
She was carrying a small water glass with a little whiskey in it. “Here. Sit up. Drink this. Do you good.”
It’s not a glass of water and whiskey; it’s a water glass with whiskey in it. Apparently, the Rivers family drinks straight whiskey for medicinal purposes. Just as apparent, they obviously weren't yet concerned about fetal alcohol syndrome.