Coming of Age in Mississippi Part 2: Chapters 10–17 Summary and Analysis
by Anne Moody

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Part 2: Chapters 10–17 Summary and Analysis

Summary

Shortly before Anne’s freshman year of high school begins, a Black boy named Emmett Till is killed by a lynch mob for allegedly whistling suggestively at a White woman. In addition to Till’s death, a local Black family is murdered in an arson, which was believed to have been targeted at their neighbor, who was participating in an interracial relationship.

Anne comes to despise the racially tense environment of Centreville and hates telling herself to behave as if everything is normal at Mrs. Burke’s home. Mrs. Burke mentions Till’s death to Anne, saying it’s a shame “he had to die so soon,” almost as a caution to Anne. Anne decides she ultimately wants to leave Centreville. She approaches a teacher named Mrs. Rice and learns about the NAACP, but Mrs. Rice warns Anne not to reveal their conversations for fear she will lose her job. Mrs. Rice becomes a mentor to Anne, but she ultimately does lose her job. Anne, disgusted with the social climate of her town, concludes, “I was sick of pretending, sick of selling my feelings for a dollar a day.”

Anne travels to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to work during the summer of her freshman year. However, work is hard to find. First a poor White woman hires her for two weeks’ work and leaves town without paying her; next, she works at a family store called Ourso’s Department Store, where she is undermined by a jealous coworker who falsely befriends her and gets her fired. Anne returns home and learns about a couple that was forced to leave town over an interracial affair, but when she asks her mother about it, her mother grows furious that the first question Anne asked was about racial injustice. Anne becomes angry that this can’t be discussed and remembers Mrs. Rice’s advice to her—that she should cultivate some hobbies to distract her from her justifiable and mounting anger. She decides to play piano, but she also decides she will leave Centreville as soon as she finishes high school.

During her sophomore year, Anne has trouble reconciling her changing attitudes with the reality of her social and family life in Centreville. Her mother observes her shortness with Mrs. Burke and is shocked. Anne also observes that Raymond behaves as if he despises her. She decides to keep busy: she plays basketball, tries out for the tumbling team, and continues to earn good grades. She also keeps working for Mrs. Burke, who enlists Anne to tutor her son, Wayne, in math. However, Wayne quickly becomes friendly with Anne, much to Mrs. Burke’s chagrin. She hovers and reprimands Wayne in front of Anne, creating an awkward situation. Wayne often offers to give Anne rides, and it appears he may be attracted to her.

Anne and Mrs. Burke have a brief exchange about school integration, and rather than maintaining her usual passivity, Anne provides her opinion on this topic, enraging Mrs. Burke. Afterward, the tutoring stops, and Mrs. Burke asks Anne to bring her brother Junior over to cut grass. Mrs. Burke accuses them of stealing her wallet, which she mysteriously finds at the last minute, and Anne resigns immediately, telling Mrs. Burke that she and her brother work so they do not have to steal. She works briefly for a friend of Mrs. Burke’s—who offers a nice-sounding retail position that turns out to be a janitor’s job—and goes to New Orleans for the summer with her family’s approval.

In New Orleans, Anne stays with relatives and has trouble finding work until an old Centreville connection gets her a job in a chicken factory. However, she has been hired as a temporary worker during a factory strike—a fact that Anne discovers when she leaves the factory building on a break and hears the angry response of the crowds picketing outside.

During her junior year of high school, Anne discovers that her adventures away from Centreville have begun to change her, and she becomes bored and dissatisfied with life in Centreville. She continues to devote time to her various hobbies as a way...

(The entire section is 1,748 words.)