(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Aunt Fe, an elderly woman known and loved throughout her small community in rural Louisiana, is leaving the place where she has lived all of her life. Louise, her kin, has come with her husband, James, to take her north. On this day, members of the community, all of whom feel as though they are kin to Aunt Fe, gather to say farewell. No one wants to see her leave, and those who know her best are sure that she would rather stay where she is. Aunt Clo, one of the old ones, thinks that moving Aunt Fe is like uprooting a tree and finding you did not get the taproot. You destroy the tree and you create only holes: one in the ground and the other in the air, where the lovely branches used to be. Louise, however, believes she has no choice.

Louise’s main motivation for taking Aunt Fe away is fear for the old woman’s safety. There has been a recent bombing, in which a black woman and her children were killed. There is little doubt that the bombing was the work of white racists opposed to the nonviolent struggle for justice waged by blacks involved in the Civil Rights movement, which promises (or threatens) revolutionary changes to a region resistant to change of any kind.

Even benign whites such as Ann-Marie Duvall, whose love for Aunt Fe is genuine, cannot quite understand what black people want. Ann-Marie’s visit to Aunt Fe, in spite of the barriers of sleet, mud, and darkness that must be overcome, indicates her willingness to meet her obligations to these people, as had her father, her grandfather, and her great-grandfather. An irony that escapes Ann-Marie is that her great-grandfather’s relationship to...

(The entire section is 667 words.)