Chapter 2 Summary

Dicey sits, detached and alone, in the back of her English classroom as the teacher, a pale, red-haired gentleman named Mr. Chappelle, begins a discussion on the topic of "conflict." Bored by the shallow contributions of her classmates, which include such literal offerings as "conflict between two men...a man and a woman...a girl and a girl...," she idly observes the students—and the racial and economic divisions among them. There is only one other person in the room who, in her opinion, gives interesting, thought-provoking answers. The other person is a lively, mature-looking black girl named Wilhemina, who sits in the front row diagonally across the room.

As inane examples of conflict continue to be added to the list the teacher writes on the board, Dicey thinks up ideas of her own in her head. She muses that there could be conflict "between someone with power and someone without any...[or] between someone honest and a liar." Wilhemina raises her hand and suggests "conflict between an individual and the society he lives in." Dicey awakens from her reverie as the girl cites examples which include Jesus, the suffragettes, and the people who ran the underground railroad. Mr. Chappelle calls on Dicey next, even though she has not raised her hand. Resentful at the intrusion, Dicey offers instances of conflict "between someone and himself...want[ing] one thing and the opposite at the same time," saying one thing "when you really mean the opposite," or having "something you want to do and something you have to do."

When school is finally over, Dicey rushes out to her bike. A boy who appears to be few years older is playing a guitar on the concrete wall next to the bike rack. Dicey stops to listen as he sings a song about a stranger, a girl, and a "coat of many colors." When he has finished, the boy, who has a thin face and wide gray eyes, invites Dicey to sit awhile as he begins another song, but Dicey shakes her head, gets on her bike, and rides off to work. After washing shelves at Millie Tydings' store for exactly an hour, she returns home to find James reading as usual, Maybeth practicing a list of vocabulary words with Gram, and Sammy working in the...

(The entire section is 890 words.)