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The other major event which occurred in the book other than the rape of Mary Susan is, of course, the lynching of Big Willie. The lynching is an atrocity for many reasons, not the least of which is because Big Willie is innocent, and the people know it. Regardless of the truth, it is easier for the townspeople to hide behind their prejudices and sacrifice the black man to uphold their white supremist ideal. It would be unspeakable for them to admit that the real culprit is Zeph Davis, the son of the most prominent family in the town. The lynching is an affront to all that is good in human nature; the townspeople gather to watch, bringing their children with them, as if the gory spectacle is an opportunity for entertainment. Their disavowal of the humanity of the innocent man they are hanging is grim evidence of the dehumanizing effect of the bigotry which has been nurtured in the town for generations.
Other major events in the book include Mary Susan's rejection of Zeph's crude and unwanted advances, Esther Davis's talk with Ansel and Little Willie about their aspirations for the future, Ansel's mother's affirmation that Ansel does indeed not have to take over his father's store, and Ansel's departure from the town of Davis. Mary Susan's rejection of Zeph fuels the fury that results in her rape and murder; Esther Davis's talk with Ansel and Little Willie sows the seed of other possibilities than the life his father has planned for him in Ansel's mind and forces him to see his friend Little Willie in a new light when Willie says he wants to be a doctor. Ansel's mother's affirmation that he does not have to follow his father's orders and grow up to take over the store gives Ansel the permission and stimulus he needs to think on his own and act on his own beliefs, and Ansel's ultimate departure from Davis is evidence that he will escape from the confining pressures of a deeply prejudiced small-town mentality and grow up to be a man of fairness and integrity.
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