In Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals, what happens when Melba's family goes to Mr. Waylan's store to shop?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One Friday evening, when Melba's family goes to Mr Waylan's store to shop, they are overcharged for their groceries by twenty-two dollars.

In the novel, Melba describes how the adults in her family always lived in "constant fear and apprehension" of insulting white people. Although they tried to keep within the confines of what was expected of black people, Melba observes the adults in her life still lived in fear of making unintentional mistakes. She cites the example of their experience at Mr. Waylan's store.

Even though Melba's family are frequent customers of Mr. Waylan's store, they can do nothing when he overcharges them for their groceries. Despite the extra charge being more than a day's pay, Melba's family has no recourse. They have to pay the extra money. When Melba's grandmother dares to argue respectfully with Mr. Waylan, he yells at her so loudly that his voice is "loud enough for everyone within a block to hear."

Mr. Waylan's impossible rationale is that, since he always gave Melba's family credit when they didn't have "eating money," they are supposed to pay up even when he overcharges them. He further insults them and taunts them with the prospect of eating just beans for the next month if they don't comply.

The implication is that, if the family doesn't pay up quietly, Mr. Waylan will not extend them credit the following month, and they will be reduced to eating just beans. After paying up, Melba's family decides never to frequent Mr. Waylan's store again. Melba notes that, for fear of causing offense, her family shrinks from fighting back against the white grocer's unjust treatment.