If Beale Street Could Talk

by James Baldwin

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How did Frank die?

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As the novel concludes, Frank's body is found in his car outside the city after having committed suicide. This happens shortly after Frank is caught stealing goods from his employer in order to pay for Fonny's attorney and bail. Frank kills himself due to being severely troubled over his son's circumstances: Fonny is in jail after being wrongfully accused of rape and having gotten Tish pregnant. Frank was also facing unemployment and a perceived lack of support from his family, which also influenced his actions. The ending of If Beale Street Could Talk is not completely clear on whether Fonny will be released. Regardless of the outcome, Frank's death can be seen as paying the ultimate price, as he trades money for Fonny's release with his life.

Interestingly, shortly after Frank's death, Tish describes her baby as screaming "like it means to wake the dead." This end to the novel thus has a powerful double-meaning in relation to Frank.

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