Warriors Don't Cry

by Melba Pattillo Beals

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Student Question

Why does Melba's mother in Warriors Don't Cry insist on keeping their encounter with the mob a secret?

Quick answer:

Melba's mother forbids Melba from discussing the morning's events with anyone because she doesn't want their attackers to discover the true identity of their victims.

Expert Answers

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Melba's mother insists Melba keep their encounter with the mob secret because she doesn't want their attackers to discover the true identity of their victims. Melba's mother asserts that, if the men ever discovered who they were attacking, they would likely hunt her and Melba down to "finish the job" of killing them.

In Chapter Four, Melba's mother takes Melba to Central High for her first day at school. They are met by a noisy crowd of white demonstrators and neighbors when they get there. The Arkansas National Guard is there as well, but they do nothing to protect Melba and her other black peers. As the crowd becomes more rowdy, Melba and her mother try to get away.

In the process of fleeing, Melba and her mother are pursued by a group of white men. One of the men has a rope, and another manages to catch up to Melba's mother. He tries to grab her arm, but she eludes him. Another man assaults Melba with a large tree branch, but he misses as well. Eventually, they are both able to reach their car and manage to get away, although one man throws a brick at their windshield.

Melba and her mother drive around for a while until they are sure the men are not following them. Due to this terrifying incident, Melba's mother forbids her from discussing the morning's events with anyone. She tells Melba that, even if she has to lie, she must never admit to being in the vicinity of Central High that morning. Their lives are at stake, and they must do everything they can to protect themselves. 

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