Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 368
The protagonist’s name is William Wallace Jamieson, and he is a young married man expecting his first child with his wife, Hazel, in about six months. Hazel has been behaving as though she is having the baby much sooner than this, however, and she is unhappy with William Wallace’s recent behavior. Finally, he stays out all night, and he returns to find Hazel missing and a note she wrote that she has gone to drown herself in the Pearl River and that he would regret his behavior toward her. William Wallace believes this letter and goes, immediately, to his friend, Virgil, with whom he’d been out all night. They collect a rather ragtag group of men and boys to help William Wallace drag the river, looking for Hazel’s body. Hazel, it turns out, is not dead at all, but merely wants to make William Wallace suffer for her suffering or to test him to see how much he loves her (or possibly both), and she turns up, very much alive, at the story’s end (and after William Wallace and his group have spent the entire day on the river looking for her). She’s a little petty, but she gets what she wants, though William Wallace makes her promise she’ll never do such a thing again. In the end, their relationship remains intact.
Virgil, as I mentioned, is William Wallace’s best friend, the one who helps him round up a group of people to assist with the river and get the wide net they’ll need from Old Doc, the only man who has one.
The Malone boys and the Doyles, two white boys named Grady and Brucie, and two black boys named Sam and Robbie Bell, all pitch him to help William Wallace. Hazel’s mother makes a very brief appearance once the group of men and boys return to town, sans Hazel but with a huge load of catfish. William Wallace is a little afraid of what she’ll do when she finds out about her daughter, and the men scatter when they see her. At this point, William Wallace goes home and finds Hazel there, right as rain.
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