(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In the first of the story’s six sections, Sue, an elderly and dignified black woman, recalls her burdensome life and efforts to survive the death of her husband and the births of her sons, Sug and Johnny-Boy. Both sons believe in the promise of the Communist Party to end strife between the races and economic classes. Sug, however, is imprisoned for his party activities, and Johnny-Boy, like many Richard Wright characters, is fleeing from white people who seek to identify Communist Party members in order to destroy both them and the party. Sue and Reva, a white woman in love with Johnny-Boy, share a well-founded concern for Johnny-Boy’s safety.

In the next section, Johnny-Boy explains to his mother that he is committed to communism for economic, not racial reasons, noting that black people cannot fight rich bosses alone and that only by working with white party members can they attain economic equality. Sue believes that Johnny-Boy is blinded by his idealism, but her maternal love does not allow her to prevent his attending a party meeting, even though Reva has warned her that the sheriff and other white men plan to raid the meeting.

In the third section the sheriff arrives to determine the whereabouts of Johnny-Boy and the meeting. He brutally beats Sue, but she will not tell him anything. Angered by her defiance, the sheriff knocks her unconscious. Sue’s pride, her ability to maintain her secret, and her pronouncement that she has the...

(The entire section is 494 words.)