Linden Hills Additional Summary

Gloria Naylor


(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Two journeys are at the heart of Linden Hills. The first is that of Willie Mason, living from hand to mouth, who fears becoming a forty-year-old grocery-bagger. He wonders whether he has made a mistake and should follow the dream of material success. He welcomes a suggestion that he and Lester Tilson seek holiday jobs in Linden Hills, even though an ominous cry from the Hills chills him. What he finds there convinces him that he is doing the right thing, that in the Hills the wrong dream is followed.

At Lester’s home, Willie learns that Mrs. Tilson’s desire for money drove her husband to work two jobs until he died from a heart attack. Willie perceives the ill feeling within the Tilson home and recognizes Lester’s hypocrisy when he mocks his sister.

The next day, they find work at the wedding reception of Winston Alcott, who marries a woman he does not love because marriage is what Luther Nedeed and Linden Hills expect. Only Willie recognizes that Winston’s best man is also his former lover. Later, Willie stares at a centerfold of a black nude and is appalled because he sees exploitation, not sex, in the chains against which she struggles. Another man calls this photo an example of progress for African Americans: “Today Penthouse . . . tomorrow the world.”

At the home of a nervous widower, Willie and Lester are spirited upstairs to prepare the dead wife’s room for a new bride; at the same time, a wake is held downstairs at which the guests discuss the danger of a proposed low-income housing development too close to Linden Hills. Only Willie seems to understand the ghastly funeral dinner, at which guests devour “brown and bloody meat” that seems to represent the lives of the less fortunate.

Hired to deliver supplies to the church where the dead woman will be buried, Willie realizes that the Reverend Hollis, a man whom he has admired for years, is an alcoholic and a liar. After the funeral,...

(The entire section is 806 words.)