What is the climax of "A Summer Tragedy" by Arna Bontemps?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The climax of "A Summer Tragedy" occurs at the moment that the car plunges down the steep incline into the river where the deep water flows rapidly:

The movement was nearly as swift and direct as a fall. The two old black folks, sitting quietly side by side, showed no excitement. 

Ironically, the old couple have chosen summer as the season in which to end their lives, the season in which all else is ripe and bountiful. Jeff loves the land that he has worked all the years of his life, and he leaves it before harvest because he is too weak and dispirited to work through this season. Someone else can benefit from his crop because he is too debilitated by his stroke. His aged wife Jennie, who is blind and destroyed by the tragic loss of all her children, joins him in their journey toward death as Jeff drives their old Model-T Ford that sputters and rattles and "chug[s] on monotonously." 

Having lost their youth, their children, and their health, Jeff and Jennie feel there is nothing for which to live. Indeed, life is intolerable, and will only worsen. 

Now he was old, worn out. Another paralytic stroke (like the one he had already suffered) would put him on his back for keeps. In that condition, with a frail blind woman to look after him, he would be worse off than if he were dead.

Jeff has long pondered this decision, and he and Jennie decide to dress formally and die proudly, rather than become helpless in their isolation.