What is the theme, setting, and plot in "A Party Down at the Square" by Ralph Ellison?

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The setting of this story is actually a small town's main square, "right in front of the court house," in the middle of the night, just as the "old clock in the tower was striking twelve." The fact that a black man is lynched in plain sight, in the very center of the town, shows just how accepted and unremarkable an event it is for a white mob to murder a black man. The narrator of the story remarks that people must have driven in their cars to come see the lynching from "Phenix City," a town in Alabama.

In terms of the story's plot , the narrator is a young boy from Cincinnati, evidently unused to seeing things like one sees in Alabama, and he was at his uncle's house when some men came and said there was a party in the square. When they arrive at the "party," the boy sees a black man being held captive by a mob of whites. It is cold and rainy, and it becomes clear that the mob is going to burn the man to death. As he burns and the mob watches, an airplane appears overhead in the...

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Last Reviewed by eNotes Editorial on December 10, 2019