by: Toni Morrison

Section 6

Summary Section 6


After leaving Alice's house one day in March, Violet goes to a drugstore where she sits sipping a malt and thinking about the knife that she had found at the bottom of the parrot's cage before barging into the funeral. The young ushers struggled with her when they saw the knife but Violet, a woman of fifty, had managed to hold them off long enough to slash Dorcas's face. A group of men rushed to the casket and carried Violet off kicking and growling. When she returned to her apartment she put her parrot out on the windowsill even though it didn't know how to fly. The bird kept repeating "I love you," and Violet couldn't stand it. Joe had been missing since New Year's Day and his friends came by asking for him.

Violet orders a second milkshake, hoping to put more flesh on her skinny frame. Haunted by the times that Joe and Dorcas shared together, she thinks back to the Joe Trace that she knew in Virginia, the man that she chose and the man that she claimed as her own. In 1888, Violet's family was robbed of all their belongings and Violet's mother, Rose Dear, stopped speaking. Rose Dear's mother, True Belle, received word of her daughter's misfortune and moved from Baltimore to Rome, Virginia to help out. But four years later, Rose Dear threw herself in a well. Only a few days later, her long-absent husband finally reappeared with gifts and money.

When Violet was seventeen, her grandmother, True Belle, sent her and two of her sisters to go and pick a cotton crop in Palestine, Virginia where there was an unexpectedly productive harvest and too few laborers. The job was to last for three weeks. One night Violet lay down to sleep under a walnut tree. With a thud, Joe Trace fell out of the tree and startled Violet, explaining to her that he worked in the gin house and had been sleeping in that tree. The two talked all night and when the three weeks were up Violet sent her money home with her sisters and moved to the nearby town of Tyrell to work for a family and stay close to Joe. He was nineteen at the time and living with an adopted family. His family was surprised when he decided to take Violet to Baltimore thirteen years after they married, because he had always loved the woods and nature. But their sudden decision to bypass Baltimore and head for New York, "the City," was even stranger.

Neither Joe nor Violet ever really wanted children, and Violet had already had three miscarriages by the time they moved from Virginia. However, by the time she hit forty, Violet craved a child and imagined what her last baby would have been like.

Then Violet remembers that earlier that morning at Alice's house, Violet had sat while her hostess hemmed her frayed coat lining. The two women were now comfortable with sitting in silence and Violet drank tea as she watched Alice work. Violet wondered out loud whether she should stay with Joe or leave him and Alice did not give her a clear response.


The previous section ends with Violet sitting in Alice's apartment, wearing "a hat in the morning." This section opens with a description of "that hat," pulled jauntily over one of Violet's eyes. Thus, the hat becomes the connecting thread that carries the narrator from one train of thought to the next. The characters themselves are too ephemeral and shadowy to provide stable connections, so objects take on added importance because they are firmly defined and tangible.