Way in the Middle of the Air

by Ray Bradbury

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Student Question

What does Silly mean when asking Teece about his future nights in "Way in the Middle of the Air"?

Quick answer:

When Silly asks Teece what he will do with his nights in Ray Bradbury's "Way in the Middle of the Air," he is alluding to the terror campaigns carried out by Teece and the other white men as they threatened, frightened, hurt, and even killed their Black victims. Now that the Black people are leaving, Teece and the others will no longer be able to go on their lynching expeditions.

Expert Answers

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Hardware store owner Sam Teece in Ray Bradbury's story "Way in the Middle of the Air" is an angry, nasty man who likes to control people through intimidation and violence. His Black worker, Silly, finally escapes from him through the compassion of Grandpa Quartermain, who volunteers to do Silly's work for him. But even as Silly is riding away in an old car, Teece continues to taunt him.

Silly, now safe forever from Teece, calls back, "Mr. Teece, Mr. Teece, what you goin' to do nights from now on? What you goin' to do nights, Mr. Teece?" To understand what Silly means, we have to know what Teece used to do at night, and the story gives us some strong hints. The narrator speaks of men gathering at Teece's house with their shotguns. Their eyes are mean, and their hearts are pounding with excitement. They are armed to the hilt, and a "ring of hemp rope" lies coiled on the floor of the car as they drive through the dark.

They find a "good strong tree" and then knock on the door of a shanty. These men, accompanied or perhaps led by Teece, are on a mission to lynch someone. They will threaten and terrorize. They might fire their guns into the air or perhaps at people. Then they will hang someone up on that "good strong tree." This is how Teece has been spending his nights.

But as Silly implies, Teece will not be able to do so any longer. With all the Black people leaving, he will have no more victims to terrorize or hurt or kill. His anger and violence will have no outlet any longer.

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