This chapter is the first of three that Lou Dimes will narrate. Lou is Candy's boyfriend, a white man who lives in Baton Rouge. Lou's voice is objective and journalistic. He provides a clear understanding of what is happening at the scene. At the same time, he is still a white Southerner who feels alarmed at the sight of many armed black men. Lou Dimes differs from other Southern men however as we begin to see in this chapter. Although he has a relationship with Candy, he does not appear to be the dominant member within it. Sheriff Mapes, in fact, criticizes Lou's failure to control his woman. Lou is not interested in controlling Candy, however. He is a Southern man, but unlike Sheriff Mapes, he is not interested in establishing his manhood by subjugating others.

Sheriff Mapes is not an entirely bad man, but his need to establish himself by using violence places him in the older Southern social order. Sheriff Mapes establishes his manhood by exercising force against others. Ironically his violence appears to be more cowardly than it is brave. The Sheriff fights these men, but not on equal grounds. His status as the enforcer of the law protects him against any retaliation by the blacks. Sheriff Mapes takes advantage of his position to persecute those lower than him, but only does so knowing that he is safe within his position. His forcible blows against such old black men appear to be particularly harsh and unnecessary, as these men are elderly and nonviolent. The image of the Reverend Jameson falling in reaction to being struck seems particularly cruel. As these black men pose no threat, the Sheriff's force is excessive and actually ridiculous. There is no doubt that his questioning techniques are an outdated hangover from the days of the earlier South.

The ridiculous nature of the Sheriff's violence almost seems to be understood by the black men themselves. Traditionally, the techniques used by the Sheriff would bring out truthful confessions and frightened reactions, but not on this day. The fear upon which the Sheriff's techniques once relied no longer seems to exist. Instead of groveling in response to the blows, the old men laugh sarcastically. Instead of fleeing when Reverend Jameson falls to the ground, the old men line up so that the Sheriff can more easily hit them. The Sheriff has no idea what to do when his interrogating methods fail. His perplexity at not being obeyed as in the days of old allow the old men around him to gain the upper hand.

Toward the end of the chapter, Billy Washington starts confessing and offering explanations even without the Sheriff asking. In fact, the Sheriff is still flummoxed by the failure of the men to heed his ways. Billy boldly screams out that he is Beau's murder and even explains why—Beau beat his son so badly years ago that Bill's son can no longer recognize his parents. Billy's willingness to tell his story to the white Sheriff when not asked is an act of significant courage. Traditionally, there was a racist social order that prevented blacks from speaking out of turn to whites. Here, Billy not only speaks out of turn, but he also dredges up accusations of brutality against a local white man. Billy's bold testimony is the first of many to come. His willingness to speak inverts the common dynamics of dialogue between whites and blacks in the South. While whites once stood as the master of language and speech, now Billy Washington does. Billy Washington bravely rises and talks and Sheriff Mapes can do nothing but listen. This act of articulation and storytelling is another way in which Billy has reasserted his manhood on this day.