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Like a Winding Sheet. Plot Summary. All Characters Johnson Mae Mrs. Scott The Waitress. LitCharts Teacher Editions. Teach your students to analyze literature like LitCharts does. Detailed explanations, analysis, and citation info for every important quote on LitCharts. The original text plus a side-by-side modern translation of every Shakespeare play.
Sign Up. Already have an account? Sign in. From the creators of SparkNotes, something better. Sign In Sign Up. Literature Poetry Lit Terms Shakescleare. Download this LitChart! Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Themes All Themes. Symbols All Symbols.
Theme Wheel. LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Like a Winding Sheet , which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. He is disappointed that he has slept so late, as it means he has missed the chance to make his wife, Mae , breakfast. Active Themes. Racism, Alienation, and Abuse. This moment, though light-hearted, hints at the dark turn that the story will take. Racial Inequality. Related Quotes with Explanations. As they are about to leave the house Mae remembers that today is Friday the thirteenth.
Feeling the date to be inauspicious, Mae decides she wants to stay home rather than going to work. Petry creates some subtle irony here, as for Mae the date does indeed turn out to be unlucky, but ironically the violence against her ultimately takes place at home, the very place she thinks she will be most safe.
Johnson arrives at work, already exhausted, and late due to the time he spent convincing Mae to go to work. He imagines how if he were in charge, he would improve things to make the work less tiring. Here it is clear, that given the chance, Johnson could be a highly productive member of society, someone who innovates rather than simply staying in a dead-end job, which highlights how tragic it is that he is instead belittled and oppressed.
Download it! When Johnson walks by the forewoman , she grumbles about how everyone in the plant seems to arrive late, especially Johnson.
She starts using racial slurs, pinning the greatest portion of the blame on black employees. Her use of racial slurs serves to lump all the black employees together, denying their individuality and instead unfairly painting them as lazy or inattentive workers.
Johnson experiences a flash of anger and fantasizes about beating the forewoman. Instead he approaches her in an intimidating way so that she is forced to back away, and he insists that she is free to insult him but must never again use racial slurs. She appears to be frightened and apologizes hastily. Johnson notices that he is beginning to feel disconnected from his hands , which feel primed to strike her. His mind lingers on how pleasurable he imagines it would be to hit her, and thinks that his hands would probably feel much better if he had done it.
As the night draws to a close, the other workers appear uneasy and the incessant noise of the machines builds. Johnson collects his pay slip and leaves.
He thinks about how they often stay up until dawn instead of going to bed, laughing together, preparing food, listening to the radio or just dozing. The thought of the long train ride back to Harlem is an exhausting prospect to him, as he watches his coworkers sip coffee and notices how it seems to revive them. He decides to wait in line for coffee as well. This makes the prospect of the revitalizing coffee especially appealing, and shows just how badly Johnson needs relief from his grueling day-to-day life.
When Johnson reaches the counter, the girl serving the coffee casually tells him that there is no more coffee, flicking back her long blonde hair. He expects that his coworkers might protest, but they only shuffle awkwardly and say nothing. Johnson experiences an intense desire to strike her, and again he notices how tension builds in his hands.
He relishes the thought of beating her and in doing so smearing her lipstick across her face, violently enough that she would never deny a black man a cup of coffee again. He leans towards her, preparing to strike her forcefully. But he instead lets his hands drop with intense effort, as he again feels unable to hit a woman, no matter who she is or how badly she treats him. But he still feels unable to violate his principles, once again producing a crisis of agency, as represented by his hands.
Gender and Race. Johnson leaves without looking back, thinking about how the waitress seemed contemptuous of him as she tossed her hair. If he had looked back, however, he would have seen the waitress turning away the other people waiting in line for coffee and tossing her hair again as she started to make a fresh batch. He feels tension expanding through his whole body and building up painfully as he struggles to contain it.
Johnson arrives home and finds Mae. She is cheerful but quickly irritates him by cracking her gum, and she unwittingly adds to his pent-up frustration by flicking her hair in the same way the waitress did. Johnson tries not to start a fight, however, as he feels genuine affection for her. Exhausted, he sits down on her overalls for the next day. She complains he will wrinkle them and insists he move, but he refuses. The lengths Johnson is prepared to go to in order to avoid arguing with Mae demonstrate his sincere love for her.
Mae tries to coax Johnson out of his bad mood, but her playful repetition of the same racial slur the forewoman used unleashes his fury. He feels as though he has lost all control over his body, powerlessly watching as he hits her over and over again.
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Like a Winding Sheet
Post a Comment. Ann Petry — Like a Winding Sheet. Labels: Ann Petry , characters , foreshadowing , Johnson , Like a Winding Sheet , lipstick , Literature , Mae , notes , overview , plot , point of view , racism , setting , Short Story , symbolism , text , themes , title , winding sheet. No comments:.
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