Chapter 11: 1965 Summary and Analysis
Things seemed better in 1965. The colored people were beginning to find work in the stores; one was even teaching in the local school.
Nel remarked that many things were better in the past. The young men of the day reminded Nel of the deweys. It was becoming more difficult for Nel to recognize many of the people in the town.
Medallion seemed to build a home for the elderly every time it built a road. It appeared the community needed more rooms for the elderly. The population was not necessarily living longer; the families were just placing their elderly in the homes sooner. It seemed easy for the white families to place their older people in the homes, but generally the black families did not put their elderly in a home until they “got crazy and unmanageable.” A few of the blacks, however, were like Sula, and put their elderly away for meanness.
Up until 1965, Nel had lived a narrow life. She had had a relationship with a sergeant stationed at a camp near Medallion, but that relationship had petered out. She had formed a liaison with a bartender at the hotel, but that did not last long. Nel was 55 in 1965, and it was difficult for her to remember what relationships were all about.
Nel joined a service circle when her children left home. Members of her Circle Number 5 often took turns visiting the elderly. It was her turn, and Nel was walking to the old folks’ home. Nel was curious to see Eva again.
After Jude left, Nel predicted her future. With three children she would find no other love in her life. The three children, however, were now grown and were looking elsewhere than their mother for happiness.
The Bottom had changed. Land was expensive. Whites were looking to expand to the hills. Blacks could not afford to purchase land in the Bottom if they were not already land owners. The new home builders in the Bottom were white; they wanted a house with a view of the river and elm trees. Because the blacks wanted to move to the valley, they sold the hill land to anyone who expressed interest. There were only a few close relationships remaining in the Bottom.
Nel was one of the few pedestrians left in the Bottom. Her children laughed at her for walking. She, however, adamantly refused to accept a ride unless the weather required it. To reach the home for the elderly, therefore, Nel walked.
It was four o’clock and chilly when she arrived at Sunnydale. She was eager to sit down and rest for a while. She entered a room with a long hall and doors on either side. She imagined that the building looked like a college dormitory. A receptionist gave her a pass and, after knocking, she entered the third door on the right.
Eva appeared small in her chair at the table. Her once beautiful leg had no stocking and was in a slipper. Nel grieved for the proud foot which was stuffed into terry cloth.
Nel greeted Eva, who imagined herself ironing and was dreaming of stairs. Eva did not stop her imaginary ironing even when she asked Nel to sit. Eva predicted Nel would be sick later in the day—perhaps from eating chop suey; Eva assured Nel that she knew what she was talking about. Nel tried to tell Eva that she had eaten no chop suey. Eva reminded Nel that she—Eva—had come a long way to visit Nel. Eva said Nel would not have come this far just to deny eating chop suey.
Nel explained that she was visiting Eva. Nel tried to identify herself to Eva. Eva asked if she were Wiley Wright’s daughter, and Nel was relieved that Eva knew her. Eva asked how Nel had drowned Chicken Little years ago. Nel tried to explain that it had been Sula who had drowned the child; Eva said that it made no difference. Eva explained that water was cold and that fire was warm.
Eva questioned Nel further about the death, and Nel tried to explain that she did not kill Chicken. Eva insisted that she had been talking to sweet Plum and that she knew otherwise. Eva reminded Nel that she had “watched.” Eva offered to give Nel some oranges—only now Eva called Nel by...
(The entire section is 1,838 words.)