Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1155
As Flyin’ West opens, Sophie and Miss Leah are at home drinking coffee and talking about land acquisition for African Americans. They are homesteaders who came to Kansas (their farm is outside the all-black town of Nicodemus) to accept free land for cultivation. Miss Leah is a feisty elderly woman who demands respect, and Sophie is a good-natured but strong-willed woman who takes care of Miss Leah without making her feel dependent. The two women discuss the emergence of all-black communities; they resent threats to such communities by white speculators who want to buy their land. Sophie expresses her determination to get a school for the town by the spring. Outside, Fannie and Wil talk about acquaintances they have in common, as well as Wil’s travels in Mexico and Fannie’s love of wildflowers.
Fannie’s younger sister Minnie arrives by train with her husband, Frank. Frank is fifteen years Minnie’s senior, and he is clearly in control of the relationship. The couple lives in London and enjoys a wealthy lifestyle. Frank is of mixed heritage and has little in common with his wife’s black family. He acts superior, an attitude that carries over into his marriage; he is physically abusive toward Minnie, although she lies to hide it from her family.
Minnie and Frank talk about their life in London, where they rarely see other black people. This saddens Minnie but suits Frank. He is condescending toward black people in general and is clearly trying to suppress that aspect of his heritage. That night, Fannie, Minnie, and Sophie gather outside to hold hands and perform a ritual that they first performed when they left Memphis to be free in the West. The ritual consists of Sophie leading the other two in declaring their intentions to be free and to honor themselves and the women who came before them.
The next morning, Minnie and Miss Leah talk about children. Miss Leah reveals that she had her first child at the age of thirteen, and over the years, she lost all ten to the slave trade. When she and her husband, James, were finally free, they lost five more children to illness. Miss Leah tells how this destroyed James, who desperately wanted to see a son grow into a man. Minnie tells Miss Leah that she misses being around other black people, and Miss Leah braids Minnie’s hair the way she did long ago. Frank reproaches Minnie for making herself look that way.
That night, Frank is gone and Sophie is showing Minnie her plans for the town of Nicodemus. She has drawn a map of the town, complete with a school, library, and everything a self-supporting town needs. While Sophie is out checking the horses, Frank returns drunk and finds Minnie in the guest room in which they are staying. He tells Minnie that he was out gambling with white men and lost all his money, and he blames her for being bad luck. He also tells her that he heard that the land Sophie and Fannie have is worth a fortune to the white speculators who have shown up looking to buy land. Minnie insists that they will never sell the land because it is their home. Frank becomes enraged and pushes her to the floor. Sophie charges in with her shotgun, pointing it at Frank and getting ready to shoot. Minnie yells for her not to do it because she is pregnant. Presumably, Minnie is afraid that if Frank is killed, she will have no way to support herself and the baby.
The next morning, the women are talking about Frank. Sophie is caustic in her remarks, Fannie wants the marriage to work, and Minnie insists that Frank is a good man who has been pushed too far by circumstances. Frank had been receiving money from his white father, but upon the man’s recent death, Frank’s white brothers stopped sending him money.
The next day is Sunday, but before Fannie, Sophie, and Miss Leah leave for church, they have a birthday present...
(The entire section contains 1155 words.)
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