In the Blood Summary

In the Blood by Suzan-Lori Parks is a 1999 play about Hester, an illiterate, destitute woman with five children who struggles to survive.

  • In the prologue, a chorus of figures cast judgment on Hester for her status and her choices.
  • Hester repeatedly seeks out the Reverend D., whom she asks for money. She also meets with Amiga Gringa, the Welfare Lady, the Doctor, and Chili. All of them confess to having had sexual relations with Hester.
  • At the end of the play, Hester kills her son Jabber in a rage and is sent to prison.

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Last Updated November 3, 2023.

Suzan-Lori Parks’s play In the Blood offers audiences a glimpse into the tragic life of Hester, also called La Negrita, and her five children. Over the course of nine scenes, Hester and her children struggle to live. Homeless and vulnerable, they lack food, money, and reliable support systems. Hester speaks often of needing “a leg up,” or an opportunity that will enable her to support herself and her children. This break never comes. Worse, the people around Hester who are able to offer her help refuse to do so. Instead, they take advantage of her and drive her to rage and frustration. By the end of the play, Hester is in prison for the murder of her eldest son.

As the play begins, a chorus of anonymous figures mock Hester, La Negrita, who appears with a newborn baby in her arms. The chorus introduces Hester to the audience with a litany of judgmental criticisms and jeers. Their comments indicate that Hester is an unmarried mother of five children by five different fathers. She is also illiterate and destitute.

The first scene opens with the word “SLUT” written on the wall. Because Hester is illiterate, she does not understand the insult. Her eldest son, Jabber, who is thirteen, understands the word but does not read it to his mother. Bully and Trouble, two of Hester’s middle children, interrupt the scene. Bully tells Hester that Trouble has gotten into trouble with the police, but she refuses to tell Hester more. When Trouble finds out that Bully has told on him, the two children argue, and Hester becomes stressed. This stress is exacerbated by Hester’s stomach pain. Her pain might be explained by extreme hunger—she gives her children most of the food she is able to procure.

The Doctor appears and reminds Hester that she needs to see him for a check-up. Amiga Gringa, a white woman, enters the scene as Hester’s children go to bed. Amiga Gringa owes Hester money, but she tries to distract Hester from this reality by telling Hester that Chilli, Hester’s first lover and the father of her eldest child, is in town. Hester does not believe Amiga Gringa, who tries to encourage Hester to give her children to social services and start a new, unburdened life. Hester refuses to consider the idea, and her children wake and interrupt her conversation with Amiga Gringa.

Hester and the Doctor meet to discuss Hester’s health. A streetside pelvic exam reveals that Hester has recovered from her most recent childbirth, and the Doctor recommends that Hester get a hysterectomy so that she will no longer be able to have children. He gives her a dollar for food before confessing to the audience that he has had sexual intercourse with Hester himself.

The scene shifts to show Reverend D., a street preacher, practicing. He sermonizes to no one as Hester approaches him to ask for money and support, and it becomes clear that he is the father of her youngest child, Baby, who is two years old. Though he denies knowing Hester, he agrees to give her money and sends her away, making her promise to tell no one about their interaction.

Hester and the Welfare Lady meet under the bridge where Hester lives with her children. As Hester gives Welfare a shoulder massage, Welfare chides Hester for leaving the homeless shelter, quitting the job that was given to her, and giving up on her education. Welfare reminds Hester that the Doctor has recommended she be sterilized. When Hester reacts badly to hearing this again, the Welfare Lady scolds her and reminds...

(This entire section contains 1085 words.)

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her to pay more attention to her manners. She gives Hester a bag of fabric, needle and thread, and a pattern so that Hester can earn some money by sewing a dress. As the scene ends, Welfare confesses to the audience that she too has had a sexual experience with Hester.

Later, Hester’s children are sleeping, Amiga Gringa appears, and Hester is trying with difficulty to sew the dress. Amiga Gringa tries to persuade Hester to allow her to sell the expensive-looking fabric. They talk about Chilli, Hester’s first lover. Amiga Gringa tries to kiss Hester, but Hester backs away. Before she leaves, Amiga Gringa convinces Hester to give her the cloth to sell. As the scene ends, Amiga Gringa confesses to the audience that she and Hester performed sex acts for some men in the neighborhood, which was so lucrative that Amiga Gringa thinks they should make a film.

After the scene shifts, Reverend D. is practicing his sermons in the middle of the night. Hester appears, and she tries to negotiate with Reverend D. about the money he’s promised her. He becomes sexually aroused by their conversation and orders Hester to perform oral sex on him. Afterward, the reverend gives Hester a dollar and dismisses her. He confesses to the audience that in the past, he had sexual intercourse with Hester and was drawn to her poverty and vulnerability.

In the next scene, the Doctor arrives to tell Hester that her hysterectomy is scheduled for the following day. After the Doctor leaves, Chilli approaches Hester and surprises her with his presence. They talk and reminisce. Chilli brings out an engagement ring and a wedding dress, and he suggests that he and Hester get married and share a life according to his rules. Hester agrees, but as soon as Chilli realizes that Hester has four more children with four different fathers, he changes his mind and leaves her.

On Sunday night, Hester and her children meet Reverend D. She expects him to give her money from his collection plate, but he claims to have collected no money. They argue; when their altercation becomes physical, Hester tries to hit the reverend with a club, and he pushes her to the ground in front of her children. He calls her a “slut,” which inspires Jabber to talk rapidly and repetitively about the word “slut” and its appearance on the wall at the start of the play. Though Hester asks him repeatedly to stop talking, Jabber cannot help himself, and Hester clubs him over the head, beating him to death as her other children watch.

The final scene of the play takes place outside Hester’s prison cell. The chorus of actors returns and jeers at Hester, who dips her hand in a pool of Jabber’s blood and raises it to the sky, lamenting her fate.


Scene Summaries