Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Summaries of Short Stories By the Big 7

By Kenton Rambsy

Below I have provided brief summaries of stories that I cover in my book written by the Big 7.

Charles Chesnutt
“The Goophered Grapevine” (1887) is about a character named Uncle Julius who tells the story of Henry, a man who would gain and lose strength based on the seasons, due to an accidental eating of some magical grapes.

“Po’ Sandy”(1888) is told from the point of view of Julius. When John and Annie decide to use lumber from an old schoolhouse to build a kitchen, Julius tells them about Sandy who was turned into a tree, and who’s haunting spirit is embedded in the lumber.

“The Sheriff's Children” (1898) is the story of a relationship between an illegitimate, biracial son and his father, the town's Sheriff.

"The Wife of His Youth" (1898) follows Mr. Ryder, a bi-racial man and head of the "Blue Veins Society", a Ohio social organization for colored people with a high proportion of European ancestry.

"The Passing of Grandison" (1899) follows Dick Owens who concocts a plan to take an enslaved man to Canada and help him escape to freedom to impress his girlfriend Charity Lomax.

Zora Neale Hurston
“Spunk” (1925) tells the story of three characters caught in a deadly love triangle between Joe, Lena, and Spunk Banks.

“Sweat” (1926) tells the story of a hard working washer woman, Delia Jones, and her abusive husband Sykes.

“The Gilded Six-Bits” (1933) follows how the married couple, Joe and Missie May, reconcile after her infidelity.

Richard Wright
“Big Boy Leaves Home” (1938) is about the deadly consequences four teenage boys experience after taking a swim in a noted racist white man's pond.

“Bright and Morning Star,” (1938) follows Sue, a proud elderly black woman who must save her son after his local communist party is compromised.

“Long Black Song,” (1938) deals with issues of infidelity between a married couple, Silas and Sarah.

“The Man Who Was Almost a Man”(1940) follows Dave Saunders, a teenage boy who believes owning a gun will prove his manhood.

Ralph Ellison
“Flying Home” (1944) follows Todd, a black pilot, a northerner trained at Tuskegee who crash-lands in rural Alabama and is rescued from redneck medics by Jefferson, an old black man exuding rustic ways and folksy tall tales.

“King of the Bingo Game” (1944) is about a unemployed, southern transplant he has gone to a northern movie theatre to play a bingo game with the hope of winning bingo money to pay the doctor bills for his ailing wife.

“Battle Royal” (1947) follows the introspective thoughts of a very intelligent, unnamed protagoinsts who is picked to give a graduation speech by the town's prominent white businessmen, after first participating in a boxing match.

“A Party Down at the Square” (1997) is the story of a white boy who witnesses a lynching while visiting his uncle's house somewhere in the Deep South.

James Baldwin
“Sonny’s Blues” (1957) explores the relationship between an unnamed narrator and his younger brother, Sonny.

“Going to Meet the Man,” (1965) follows Jessie, a white sheriff in the racially-charged post- civil war south, who is having sexual problems with his wife and is instead sexually attracted to African American women and is seemingly aroused by violence in the jailhouse.

Toni Cade Bambara
"Gorilla, My Love" (1972) is the story of Hazel, a young girl who feels that adults do not treat children with respect and honesty.

“The Lesson” (1972) is a first-person narrative told by a young, black girl named Sylvia who is growing up in Harlem who takes a trip to Fifth Avenue.

“Raymond’s Run” (1972) follows Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker (Squeaky), a long distance runner and caregiver to her autistic brother Raymond.

Alice Walker
“Everyday Use” (1973) follows the difference between Mrs. Johnson and her shy younger daughter Maggie, and her educated, wordly daughter Dee (Wangero).

“Nineteen-Fifty-Five” (1981) is Alice Walker's fictional account of the relationship of Elvis Presley and Mama Thornton through the fictional, Gracie Mae Still and Traynor.

"Advancing Luna--and Ida. B. Wells" (1982) examines the rape of a white civil rights worker by a black civil rights worker from the point of view of the black woman who is the victim's best friend.

“To Hell with Dying” (1988) revolves around a beloved neighbor, Mr. Sweet, and the many ‘revivals’ a neighboring family participates in to bring him back from the brink of death. 

This entry is part of a series--A Notebook on The Geographies of African American Short Stories.

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