Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 533

The unnamed narrator, a young woman in her twenties, has come to visit her former college roommate, who is dying in a Los Angeles hospital. The friend asks the narrator to tell her useless stuff that she will not mind forgetting. Much of the story thus consists of meaningless bits of trivia told by the narrator; for example, that insects can fly through rain without getting wet and that no one owned a tape recorder in the United States before Bing Crosby did. The narrator also tells her friend that when scientists taught the first chimp to talk, it lied, and about a “hearing-ear dog” who wakes up a deaf mother and drags her into her daughter’s room because the child has a flashlight and is reading under the covers.

Illustration of PDF document

Download In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried Study Guide

Subscribe Now

When the doctor enters the hospital room, the narrator goes to the beach, a few miles west of the hospital, where she recalls being afraid of earthquakes and flying—neither of which her friend feared—when they were college roommates. However, she knows that her friend is now afraid and that she will not try to talk her out of her fears, for she feels her friend has a right to be afraid. When she returns to the hospital, she finds a second bed in the room and knows that her friend expects her to stay; she thinks that the friend wants every minute: “She wants my life.” The narrator continues to joke with her dying friend, reading her a story from the newspaper about a man who robbed a bank in Mexico City by pointing a brown paper bag containing a barbecued chicken at a bank teller, only to be tracked down by the chicken’s smell. Because the story makes her friend hungry she goes out and buys ice cream bars, which they eat in the hospital room while watching a movie on television.

When the dying woman is given an injection to make her sleep, the narrator also goes to sleep and dreams that her friend...

(The entire section contains 533 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried study guide. You'll get access to all of the In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
  • Themes
  • Characters
  • Critical Essays
  • Analysis
  • Teaching Guide
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial


Explore Study Guides