Section 1 Summary
At the beginning of the book we are introduced to John Singer and Spiros Antonapoulos. They live in a town in the middle of the Deep South. John is a tall man with grey eyes and is very neat and conservative. Antonapoulos is an obese Greek man with a round face and dreamy eyes and always seems to wear a stupid smile. Both men are total opposites deaf-mutes that in a two bed room apartment together. Every morning they would walk together to work. Antonopoulos worked at a fruit stored own by his cousin Charles Parker. Singer worked at a jewelry store as silverware engraver. The two men have no other friends besides from when they work. They would meet on the same street they separated at in the morning and walk back home together. Every night Antonapoulos would cook and Singer would clean up the dishes. Singer with his hands always told Antonapoulos about what happened during his day. Antonapoulos on the other hand very rarely used his hands only when he wanted to pray, eat, drink and sleep. As the years pass on, Singer now thirty-two has been living with Antonopoulos for ten years. Then one day Antonapoulos becomes very sick. Singer helps to nurse to him back to good health for a week. Antonapoulos recovers from his sickness but is forever changed. It had seemed like Antonapoulos had recovered from his mysterious illness but things had gotten worse. He began to shoplift, bump intentionally into people on the street and he would urinate on public buildings.. All the money Singer was saving had to be used for Antonapoulos bail and court fees. One afternoon in November when Singer is waiting for Antonopoulos to meet him to go home he doesn't show up. Singer goes to the fruit store where Charles Parker, Antonopoulos cousin says he plans to take Antonopoulos to an insane asylum. Singer is shocked and very upset, he complains to Charles but Charles already had his mind made up. During the following week Singer frantically signs to Antonopoulos with his hands, telling his friend what is going on. Singer packs all his friends favorite things and accompanies him to train station to meet Charles. The following weeks after Antonapoulos leaves become really hard for Singer. He has dreams where he is signing to his friend. These become so terrible that he starts to have trouble sleeping, so that spring he moved the two bed room apartment and into a boarding house near the center of the town. Three months later we are introduced to Biff Brannon. Biff is the owner of the New York Café restaurant where locals come to eat, drink and socialize. It's midnight and Singer is sitting at of the table in the restaurant by himself. Biff goes up stairs to his wife Alice who is sleeping. He accidently bumps into a suitcase of the floor. His wife wakes up and tell him to get rid of that "lunatic" whose been at the café for the past two weeks, not before he pays for every drink he has drunken .Biff thinks back to may 15th the day Jake Blount first came to the café. Blount is a short man with heavy shoulders, a large well shaped head and a ragged mustache dressed in a stained linen suit. There something strange about him, they way he talked all the while, he would talk about so many diverse things. As Biff is standing behind the counter reading the paper enters the store Mick Kelly "a gangling, towheaded youngster, a girl of about twelve... dressed in khaki shorts, a blue shirt, and tennis shoes (McCuller18)." Mick buys a package of cigarettes as she is leaving she says to Biff that Singer is staying in one of the rooms at her house.
Section 2 Summary
Jake who is drunk goes over to Singer's table and begins to talk to him, he talks to Singer for an hour. Blount tells Singer he's the only who understands what he means and the things that he says. Singer then finally gets up and leaves. Once Blount realizes that Singer is gone be comes angry. Biff falls asleep behind the counter and is awoken by Willie, the little black boy who helps in the kitchen. Willie tells Biff how Blount had started hitting his head against the brick wall in the alley and hitting the wall with his fits , like he had gone crazy. Willie also tells Biff that Blount saw Singer and for some reason started yelling at him and fall to the ground. After the police arrive and carry Blount back to the café. Singer writes that Blount can go home with him and if he could have some soup and coffee for Blount on a piece of paper. Blount is ashamed and covers face with his hands so Singer and Biff don't see his lips quivering Singer takes Blount home and Biff goes up to bed. Mick wakes up early the next morning waiting for Singer. Her dad tells her that Singer has a guest with him. Mick then takes her little brother Bubber and Ralph to new house being built. Mick climbs up the ladder to the house top; she sits and starts to think about her plans to be a famous inventor and the classical music she loves. Her thoughts are interrupted by Ralph crying she climbs down and quits him and goes into the house. She takes out some chalk and writes on the wall "Edison", "Dick Tracy", "Mussolini" "Pussy" and "Motsart[sic]" at the top of the list. She then signs her initials M.K and takes her brothers and goes home. Once she gets home she goes to her two sisters Etta and Hazel's room. Etta wants to be famous movie star and spends lots of time grooming her self. Hazel is the opposite of Etta, she's the oldest and is lazy and doesn't care much for grooming. Mick gets a hat box form under the bed and goes to her older brother Bill. Bill is reading a magazine when Mick enters his rooms. There are different pretty women on his wall and a painting Mick did. Inside the hat box is a cracked ukulele strung with two violin strings a guitar string and banjo string. Mick had been trying to make a violin but it wasn't turning out properly. She tells bill her violin has turned out wrong and he tell her that violin isn't something you can easily make' you have to buy one. Mick gets very upset and throws the violin back in the hatbox and runs out of bills room. Mick then goes to eat dinner with Bubber and the family's black servant Portia. Jake wakes up in Singer room and sees him playing chess. As Jake dresses Singer gives him a pitcher of water. Singer then writes on his business card that he is a deaf-mute but he is able to read lips to understand what people are saying and tells him not shout. Blount is shocked, because it never occurred to him that Singer was mute. Singer also writes that Blount can stay in the room till he fins a place to stay. Blount leaves to find a job; he buys a paper and sees a help wanted ad for a mechanic. He stops by the café to see Biff and tells him that it may be a while before he gets enough money to pay for all the drink he has drunk.
Section 3 Summary
Blount goes to the find out about a mechanic position. He meets a red haired man named Patterson who Blount convinces he's qualified for the job. Patterson is offers him the job and tells him he can start that afternoon. On his way home Blount stops and speaks with three other men. He tells them he has the Gospel in him; not the religious gospel but the truth. He then asked the men if the work for the mill and they say yes. He then asks if the mill had ever gone on strike. One of the men replied that the mill went on strike several years a go, but the company sent out truck to other towns to recruit workers. Blount became very angry after hearing the story, but then men don't share his anger and laugh at him. He goes back to Singer room and tells him about the mill workers. Blount tells Singer about all the books he has read by Marx and Veblen and how the more he reads the angrier he becomes. As Blount keeps talking, Singer keeps pouring him more wine and he eventually falls asleep. One evening Portia goes to visits her father Dr. Benedict Mady Copeland. Dr. Copeland is highly educated and speaks very proper English. Portia begins to cook some collard greens and as she cooks her father ask her if she plans to have children. Portia gets angered by his question. Dr. Copeland thinks back about all the children he has delivered in his career, that have been named after him after he explains and encourages them to use birth control. Portia tells her father that a man named B.F Mason came to town a while back. Saying he was from Washington, D.C, he went door to all the black neighborhoods signing people up for fraudulent government pension program. By the time people discovered Mason was a fraud; all the money had taken had been spent or hidden. The story about the fraud makes Dr. Copeland angry towards the black people. He and Portia start to talk about how he raised her and her brothers. Portia tells him that you can't make children come out the way you want them too. Portia tells Dr. Copeland that he pushed them so hard; he pushed away her brother Willie. He also has never really met her husband, Highboy. After hearing what Portia had to say about him makes Dr. Copeland cry. Dr. Copeland begins to think about Daisy, his children's mother. He thinks about how gentle she was and how she went to church every Sunday. He also thinks about the high hopes he had for his children, he hoped that they would be doctors, lawyers, professor or scientists. Portia then tells her father bout her work with the Kelly's. She tells about Mr., Singer, which cheers up Dr. Copeland. Dr. Copeland tells Portia that the other day he was trying to light a cigarette but because it was running the matches wouldn't light. Then suddenly Mr. Singer appeared with a light. It had been the first time a white man had been kind to him. Dr. Copeland mentions that he has a deaf-mute patient and Portia encourages him to write to Mr. Singer. Highboy and Willie arrive at house and come inside to see Dr. Copeland. The meeting is very quit and awkward until Dr. Copeland asks Willie if he remember anything that he had taught him. Willie lost for words didn't know how to answer, and Dr. Copeland says it feels like he has wasted his life. Everyone gets upset from Dr. Copeland comment and Portia, Highboy and Willie leave.
Section 4 Summary
Biff, Jake, Mick and Dr. Copeland all become frequent visitors to Mr. Singer until suddenly Singer is gone for two weeks with out letting anyone know. Singer goes to visit Antonapoulos at the asylum. He tells his friends about all his friends and has the help with his loneliness. Singer returns to his room with the Kelly's, but never told anyone where he had disappeared to. Its summer time and Mick feels like his summer is different from all the other summers, ever since Mr. Singer moved in. Mick realizes that her dad feels lonely and that's why he likes to stop and talk to her. Ever since his hip accident, he could only repair watches and clocks and the little things around the house. Most nights Mick would go walking in the rich areas in town, where almost every house had a radio. She walked so much that she knew all the houses that played the music she wanted to her. There was one specific house, with dark shrubs out side the window where she would hide and listen to the music playing inside. At high school Mick realizes there are a lot of cliques and she doesn't belong to any of them. She decides to throw a prom party to get to know the other kids better. She invites ten boys and girls to her house for Saturday at 8 pm. The day of the party the family decorates the house with crepe paper and autumn decorations. For the party her sisters lend her a blue dress, heels and a tiara. After styling her hair and putting on her make up. Mick feels beautiful but not quite her self. When the quests arrive Mick tells every to get a prom card and get them signed. Harry Minowitz, her Jewish next door niegher asks Mick to sign his card. They go for a walk around the block, Mick notices he looks different because he's not wearing his glasses. When Harry and Mick get back the house, there are several uninvited neighborhood kids. Mick then tells everyone the party is over before things get too out of hand. She changes back in to her shorts and tennis shoes and goes to her favorite spot. That night the music was Beethoven, Mick is so affected by the music that she feels a great pain deep inside.
Section 5 Summary
It's now October and Biff had just gotten a hot chocolate machine. Mick usually comes in three to four times a week for a cup. Recently, Alice has been sickly and one day Biff hears a sharp cry from Alice upstairs. Biff takes her to the hospital and the remove a very large tumor, but she dies an hour later. Biff takes one last good look at her and goes home, mourns and then goes to visit Singer. The day of the funeral Biff goes to his sister in law Lucile's' house. He watches her do her daughter Baby's hair listens to her plans for Baby's future. Lucile says she wants Baby to take dancing, paino and expression classes. As Baby is showing Biff hand stands and kart wheel, Lucile comments on how Baby looks like father, Leroy Wilson. Biff disagrees with Lucile. Lucile then asks why Biff beat up Leroy so many years ago. Biff tells her Leroy was bragging about how he used to beat on Lucile. The car for the funeral arrives and the three leave. The next night Biff re-opens the café and the regulars come in, Jake, Singer, and Mick. An old song comes on the radio and reminds Biff of Alice. Mick is standing near Singer and Jake, when Singer invites her to sit. Biff sees this and goes to bed wondering what Mr. Singer thinks and feels.
After a very busy week Dr. Copeland, comes done with a slight fever and goes home to bed. He awoken by Portia who comes to till him Willie had been arrested. She tells Dr. Copeland that Willie and another boy named JuneBug got in a fight over a stripper names Love Jones. The next couple days, Portia and the Dr. Copeland go to visit Willie, who is convicted of man slaughter. Willie is then sent to prison in the northern part of the state. After Willie is sent off, Dr. Copeland discovers her has tuberculosis and becomes more and more tired each day. Portia comes one day to her father house to till him that her mother's father was coming to visit and that Hamilton and Karl Marx, Dr. Copeland other sons would be there also. Dr Copland agrees to go the reunion. When he arrives at the reunion, everyone is talking about religion and how they perceive angles and God as white people. Dr. Copeland gets so angry at those statements, that he can eat or speak and he leaves. The next morning, Dr. Copeland goes to see Singer who helps to relive his anger, but as he's leaving he bumps into Jake and gets angry all over again, although Jake apologizes. Jake goes up to Singer and tells him about his child hood and how he wanted to be an evangelist until he meet a woman named Miss Clara. After meeting Miss Clara Jake begin to read a lot of books, which changed his perception of life. On his walk home he sees "Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earths (McCullers159)." written in red chalk on the alley wall. He writes a message back telling who ever wrote that message to meet him there tomorrow or the next day. He wants for two day but no show up, one the third day a rain storm washes the words away.
Section 6 Summary
Mick has started receiving piano lesson from a classmate, Delores Brown in exchange for her lunch money. One day Mick finds Bubber and another boy named Spareribs on the steps with Spareribs new rifle gun. The gun belonged to spareribs father who had passed away. Spare rib warns Bubber not to play with trigger because the gun is loaded. Baby walks by and Bubber calls her over, he hold up the gun and pretends to shoot her but accidently pulls the trigger and shoots her. The ambulance and arrives and takes Baby, although she doesn't die she has a fractured skull. Soon after no one can find Bubber, Mick goes up to the tree house and finds him there. She tells him that he should stay in the tree house or he might go to jail, just to scare him. Mick goes in the house, where Lucile and Biff are there, Lucile says she wants the Kelly's to pay for Baby's hospital bills. When Mick goes back to find Bubber in the tree house he's not there. She goes to Portia house and finds a note saying that Bubber went to "Florada [sic]". The family goes looking for Bubber and they find him on the road. When Bubber finds out that Mick lied to him, he no longer lets her touch him and the family no longer calls him Bubber, but George his real name. George and Mick are never as close as before.
Every year Dr. Copeland has a Christmas party at his house. Portia helps him cook and mentions that Willie has not sent his weekly letter from prison. At every Christmas party Dr. Copeland give a five dollar prize for the student who writes the best essay. For this year the award went to Lancy Davis, who wrote and essay on the theme "My Ambition: How I Can Better the Position of the Negro Race in Society." Although it wasn't the best essay Dr. Copeland feels like it's the only essay worth consideration. Even though the essay talked about a plan to organize a revolt of black to take over America and get revenge on white people. Dr. Copland gives speech about Karl Marx at his Christmas party. He explains that black and white should unite and work together. People begin to clap and stomp their feet and appear to understand the speech. Dr Copeland is overwhelmed with joy that people agree with him, but then people begin to leave and only Singer is left. After one leaves Portia helps clean up and Dr. Copeland looks at the x-rays of his chest and is unsure how long he has to live and how much of what he said will stay with his guest.