Where Is the Voice Coming From? Summary
In “Where Is the Voice Coming From?” plot becomes subordinate to character as an anonymous speaker, the “voice” of the title, reveals his innermost thoughts in a stream-of-consciousness monologue. The action of the story is largely internal, in the mind and memory of this narrator, as he recalls recent conversations with his wife as well as his role in the death of Roland Summers, an African American civil rights leader in the small town of Thermopylae. The story concludes with the only external action in present time as the speaker begins to play his guitar.
The narrator, a white southerner in the early 1960’s who has been pushed beyond his limits by the growing Civil Rights movement, is filled with rage and insecurity as the traditional rules of his society begin to give way. The possibility of murder first occurs to him when he sees Summers’s face once too often on television, calling for equal rights for African Americans. He realizes that he has the power to eliminate that face permanently, even though he must borrow a delivery truck from his brother-in-law to carry out his predawn mission. He hides and waits for the black man’s new white car to approach the lighted garage and paved driveway of his home. Although the narrator has never seen Summers in the flesh, only his picture, he recognizes him instantly in spite of the darkness and shoots him down. Both he and Summers are trapped in the moment as he shoots, but now he can be certain that the dead man will never be his equal. At the same time, the narrator admits his envy of Summers’s green lawn and garage light, the shiny new car, and a standard of living that he himself cannot meet, as well as the waiting wife who rushes to the body.
The speaker’s own wife is not so loyal. She wonders why the shooting did not occur earlier for the good of the town, as a local white columnist suggested, and warns the narrator that the assassination will put Summers’s name back in the news. Worse, she has heard that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is going to send a more important official to Thermopylae; killing this...
(The entire section is 573 words.)