Essay, Research Paper
Pressure from the Women In "Like a Winding Sheet" Anne Petry chooses
not to fully develop the female characters of the story but still used them as a
major part of the story to bring on the climax. Petry chose to do this by using
each woman’s appearance and in some cases their rank in society to bring out the
violent doings of Johnson. Petry first used Johnson’s boss as a crisis in the
plot. Johnson was described as a man in pain and being tired which is assumed by
the reader was from working the long hours at work. After repeatedly being late
to work his boss finally scolds him for arriving so late, making her the first
lady to start the conflict in the story. By Johnson’s boss yelling at him he
becomes angered as thoughts of striking his white, female boss enter his mind.
The only things that keeps Johnson from hitting the boss was that it was
extremely immoral to hit a woman, and the fact that she is a superior to him as
his boss. The second woman in the story to create a complication in the story
was the next young white girl who is working at the coffee shop. On his way home
from work Johnson stopped at the coffee shop for the obvious cup of coffee.
Johnson had waited in line for quite a while for the cup of coffee but when he
finally got to the front for his coffee, the young white girl said that they
were out of coffee. When she told Johnson this he didn’t think that she did it
in a polite manner at all. Johnson thought that he deserved more respect due to
him being an elder to the girl, he felt that the girl didn’t show this respect.
Once again Johnson had thoughts of striking the young girl but for morality
reasons, he refrained. The final woman was the one that pushed the story to its’
climax. Johnson returned home a very tired and aggravated man from working and
the disrespectful women through out the day. This woman happened to be his wife
Mae, waiting for Johnson at home. Mae verbally abused him similarly to what his
boss had done. His wife told him that he was being a "tough old
nigger," and continued with similar statements. Although her meaning of the
term wasn’t as serious as the bosses was, it still added to Johnson’s pressure.
Once again the thoughts of raising a hand and striking the woman passed through
his mind. This time Johnson couldn’t refrain from striking his
"abuser." Although the person was again a woman, the pressure on the
man had been too much, and he released all of his pressure. All the women
throughout the day contributed to the pressure that the man had building inside
which finally became too much for Johnson to contain.