If Beale Street Could Talk

by James Baldwin

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Troubled About My Soul: Section 3 Summary

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Ernestine and Tish go to a bar to discuss a strategy for freeing Fonny. Ernestine believes that Mrs. Rogers was indeed raped, but that she misidentified Fonny based on the police officer’s claim. In fact, Ernestine thinks Mrs. Rogers has no idea who raped her, but it is easier for her to agree that Fonny is the perpetrator rather than confront the fact that she is unsure.

Ernestine suggests that it is unlikely that Mrs. Rogers will change her testimony. So, instead of wasting their time, Ernestine says they should try to discredit Bell as a witness. Ernestine has spoken with Bell’s wife, who hates her husband because of his years-long physical abuse of her. Ernestine has also spoken to the mother of a young Black boy whom Bell shot and killed. Ernestine believes that having both of these women in the courtroom will cause Bell to crack under pressure.

Tish, however, thinks Ernestine’s plan seems far-fetched. Ernestine then suggests that they ask Sharon to go to Puerto Rico, because she is the only person with a chance at changing Mrs. Rogers’s mind. Just before they leave the bar, Tish feels the baby kick for the first time.

At the same time that Tish and Ernestine are talking, Joe and Frank are hanging out in a bar. Joe explains to Frank that both of them must do whatever it takes to continue paying for Fonny’s lawyer, as it is their responsibility as fathers to look after their children. Joe encourages Frank to engage in illegal activities to earn extra money for this purpose. This includes stealing and selling goods from their respective employers.

Tish and Sharon visit Hayward for the second time. Hayward’s attitude has changed since their first appointment, largely because representing Fonny has garnered attention from others in the legal community. Instead of scaring Hayward, this attention has deepened his commitment to proving Fonny’s innocence. He prepares Sharon for her upcoming trip to Puerto Rico, telling her that she will have to visit a favela and meet with a man named Pietro Alvarez, with whom Mrs. Rogers is allegedly staying. Hayward also says that the Hunt women have been speaking with the District Attorney, saying that Fonny has always been bad.

Tish then recalls the night her baby was conceived, which was after she and Fonny finally found a loft. A man named Levy enthusiastically offers the young couple a top floor loft in a warehouse, because he is impressed with how much in love Tish and Fonny are. Tish mentions that after Fonny was arrested, Levy agreed to hold the loft until they could pay the deposit and sort out their affairs.

On their way home from the meeting with Levy, Tish and Fonny stop at a neighborhood grocery store so that Tish can buy some fresh tomatoes. While she shops, Fonny goes to a nearby convenience store to buy cigarettes. Alone, Tish gets nervous when a young Italian “junkie” gropes her and makes sexual remarks about her. She tries to get away from the man before Fonny returns, but the man persists.

When Fonny sees the man harassing Tish, Fonny threatens and eventually assaults the man in front of the store. As this occurs, Tish notices a police officer across the street approaching them. She uses her body to restrain Fonny while she talks to the officer, whose name is Bell. Bell tries to arrest Fonny for assault and battery, but the owner of the grocery store comes to Fonny’s defense. The grocer says that Tish is telling the officer the truth, and she challenges Bell...

(This entire section contains 1211 words.)

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to arrest an innocent young man who did nothing wrong.

Although they argue on their walk home, Tish and Fonny are excited about their future together. To celebrate the loft, they have dinner at the Spanish restaurant, and even though they have no money, the friendly owners allow the couple to dine on credit. Tish comments that the restaurant now claims to have lost the bill for that dinner, since Fonny has been in jail. That night, Tish says they make love differently, and she immediately feels like she will be pregnant.

When Sharon flies to Puerto Rico, she is struck by the chaotic environment at the San Juan airport. She rents a car with a young driver named Jaime, who drives Sharon to the hotel at which Hayward has booked a reservation. Jaime is immediately taken with Sharon, so he agrees to wait for her to check in so that he can accompany her to her next stop. Sharon is not sure of which outfit to wear, so she keeps Jaime waiting longer than she intends.

Jaime drives Sharon to a nightclub where Pietro Alvarez, Mrs. Rogers’s lover, supposedly socializes. She tells a waiter whom she wants to see, and to her surprise, Alvarez soon approaches her table. Sharon wastes little time, telling Alvarez that she wants to talk to Victoria Rogers, identifying herself as the mother-in-law of the man Mrs. Rogers has accused of rape. Sharon begs him to show Victoria a picture of Fonny and Tish that she has brought. Despite her pleading, Alvarez says that Victoria has been through too much, and he leaves Sharon at the table alone.

Back in New York, Tish has begun to struggle in her pregnancy. Often when the baby kicks, Tish drops things or becomes nauseated. She finds herself frequently exhausted and unable to focus, but she does not want to quit her job at the perfume counter. Even though she has trouble getting through her shift and often misses visits with Fonny because of her schedule, Tish wants to contribute to Fonny’s legal fund just like everyone else. Noticing that his daughter is struggling, Joe persuades Tish to stop working, insisting that Fonny needs her. Tish assents and reflects that Fonny seems happier now that she is able to visit him daily.

Meanwhile, Sharon is determined to talk to Victoria Rogers despite Alvarez’s response. Jaime talks to some of the people living at the favela, before telling Sharon which door to approach. Sharon is taken aback when she sees the dilapidated, unsanitary, crowded favela, wondering why anyone would want to come back here. When Sharon finds Mrs. Rogers, the young woman tries to say that Sharon is mistaken. However, Sharon persists, trying to convince the woman that Fonny could never have committed the crime of which he is accused.

Sharon calls Mrs. Rogers “daughter,” telling her that she will have to “answer” for the lies she tells. When Sharon touches the crucifix on Mrs. Rogers’s necklace, the woman begins to scream in Spanish, attracting the attention of others in the favela. Confused and scared, Sharon hurries back to Jaime. After this incident, Sharon is unable to enter the nightclub again.

Tish recalls how, after the incident outside the grocery store, she began to see Bell watching Fonny and her as they moved through the neighborhood. She even memorized Bell’s badge number. Once, he spoke to Tish, offering to carry a package for her. 

On the night that Fonny is arrested, Daniel is at the pad on Bank Street, tearfully explaining the horrors he experienced in prison.


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