If Beale Street Could Talk

by James Baldwin
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Troubled About My Soul: Section 2 Summary

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Last Updated on July 22, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1228

Frank, Mrs. Hunt, and their two daughters, Adrienne and Sheila, arrive at the Rivers house. Tish remarks that the Hunt women think Tish is not good enough for Fonny. Tish says that it would be easier if the women outright hated her.

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The families discuss Fonny’s lawyer, whose name is Hayward. Frank thinks Hayward is pleasant but that he is just another White man with a degree. Mrs. Hunt chastises her husband for talking with such hatred, telling Sharon that the only way Fonny will be released from jail is with God’s help. Frank mocks his wife’s remarks. Adrienne asks about the reason the Hunts have been summoned to the Rivers home.

Tish tells the Hunts that she is pregnant. While Frank is overjoyed, Mrs. Hunt stares blankly at Tish for a few moments. Mrs. Hunt asks in a condescending tone who will take care of the baby. Tish dryly replies that she and Fonny will, but Mrs. Hunt begins a vicious speech in which she declares that God will cause the baby to “shrivel in [Tish’s] womb” to punish Tish for her wickedness. Frank jumps from his seat and hits Mrs. Hunt with the back of his hand.

Joe ushers Frank out of the home, while the sisters tend to their mother. Tish tells Mrs. Hunt that what she said is the worst thing Tish has heard in her life. Sharon says that she doesn’t understand why Mrs. Hunt would curse her own grandchild. After the Hunt sisters exchange bitter insults with the Rivers sisters, the Hunt women leave.

Tish recalls the first time Fonny kissed her, after many years of being friends. She says that he disappeared afterward. When Fonny unexpectedly appears at the Rivers home for the first time in weeks, he gives Joe a wooden sculpture he made before asking if Tish can go out with him.

On their subsequent subway ride to the Village, where Fonny lives, Tish realizes for the first time that she is sexually attracted to Fonny. The pair walk in a park where Fonny says he has slept on a few occasions, before Fonny asks what Tish would like to do for the evening. After providing her with many options, Fonny says he wants to take her to a certain Spanish restaurant he loves.

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Tish is impressed with how the waitstaff at the restaurant treat Fonny, since she has only ever seen Fonny in their home neighborhood. Fonny is friendly with a waiter named Pedrocito, who jokes about Tish’s presence. After a lovely meal, Tish and Fonny leave the restaurant holding hands. On the street, Fonny asks if Tish will come see his “pad,” which is not far from the restaurant.

Tish says the apartment is a basement, and that it is barely large enough to accommodate one person. It is covered with sawdust from Fonny’s sculpting, yet Tish is still pleased that Fonny has a place of his own. Tish and Fonny make love for the first time on his mattress on the floor. When Fonny asks Tish if she likes it, she responds that she loves Fonny. He expresses his love for her and his desire to marry her.

By this time, Tish has been gone from her home all night. Early in the morning, Fonny and Tish go back to her house so that they can tell her parents about their intention to marry. Although Sharon and Joe think Fonny and Tish are a little too young for such a commitment, they give the young couple their blessing. In their eyes, Fonny has long been a member of their family.

After telling their parents about their plans, Tish and Fonny begin searching for a loft in the Village to rent. However, the couple finds it difficult, since few landlords want to rent to Black tenants.

In the present, Tish and Sharon go to the appointment with Mr. Hayward, Fonny’s lawyer. Hayward explains that he believes that Fonny is innocent, but the case is complicated. He says that Victoria Rogers, the woman who accused Fonny, has disappeared. Hayward must hire private investigators to locate Mrs. Rogers, which will cost more money. Hayward is also worried about the police officer, Bell, who claims to have seen Fonny running from the scene of the crime. The only exculpatory witness, Fonny’s friend Daniel, has recently been arrested on narcotics charges. Despite the financial obstacle, Sharon asserts that they will pay for the investigators in the hope that Mrs. Rogers will recant. Visibly shaken, Tish questions whether Hayward will be able to do anything to help Fonny. Hayward tells Tish that Fonny always asks about her when the two speak at the jail, and Hayward wants to be able to tell Fonny that Tish is doing well. Tish forces a smile and tells him to give a good report.

Tish recalls when Daniel first started visiting her and Fonny in the Village. On one of the days when Tish is at Fonny’s pad, Fonny runs into his childhood friend Daniel. Recently released from a two-year prison sentence, Daniel seems unwell. After a brief conversation, Fonny invites Daniel to his pad for the evening. Tish notices that Daniel’s presence makes Fonny happy, so she is pleased in turn. The two young men discuss how their lives have changed since they last saw each other, and Tish recalls the sorrow and helplessness in Daniel’s voice as he recounts how he ended up in prison. Because he had marijuana in his possession when he was wrongfully arrested for car theft, Daniel pled guilty rather than face a stiffer penalty on a drug charge.

Some time after the appointment with Hayward, Tish sees Fonny for a six o’clock visit. This time, Fonny is anxious and irritable, to the point of yelling at Tish. That evening, Tish has bad dreams about Fonny that wake her up at night. Tish worries that Fonny’s mental will worsen the longer he is in jail, but she feels powerless to help him.

The next morning, Tish goes to work at the department-store perfume counter where she has recently been hired. Tish describes the ways different kinds of customers treat her, explaining that the Black male customers treat her as if she is a little sister. To Tish’s surprise, Ernestine shows up at the end of Tish’s shift. Ernestine says that Mrs. Rogers has been located in Puerto Rico and that someone from the Rivers family will have to travel there.

Tish tells the reader that Mrs. Victoria Rogers has accused Fonny of violent, degrading rape. Mrs. Rogers is a Puerto Rican woman whose White Irish husband abandoned her with three children in New York. According to her statement, the assault took place on the ground floor of the apartment building on Orchard Street. Bell would have to have been off-duty in order to witness Fonny fleeing the scene of the crime, as the officer’s usual assigned patrol area is on the opposite side of town from Orchard Street. In addition, it is implausible that Fonny would have run from Orchard Street to his dwelling on Bank Street, as the two places are far apart. Regardless of these facts indicating Fonny’s innocence, Fonny was arrested and is now responsible for proving his innocence.

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Troubled About My Soul: Section 1 Summary

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Troubled About My Soul: Section 3 Summary