Chapter 3

Chapter 3 focuses on Dr. Copeland. The Doctor takes John Singer with him on his medical rounds about town, showing him all the sickness and poverty that he treats on a daily basis. Dr. Copeland has been increasingly busy of late; one night after coming home, he feels sick and feverish and goes to bed. He is soon wakened by Portia, who comes in and tells him that Willie has been arrested. Willie and a boy named Junebug got in a fight over a stripper, Love Jones, at a local strip joint where Willie and Highboy went because they were bored. Dr. Copeland and Portia go to see Willie in the morning. In the next few days, Willie is convicted of attempted manslaughter and sent to a prison in the northern part of the state.

Dr. Copeland discovers that he has tuberculosis of the lungs. He is tired all the time. He speaks often with Singer about what he feels is his purpose in life—to educate his people. One day Portia comes to see Dr. Copeland and tells him that Grandpapa, her mother's father, is coming into town. Hamilton and Karl Marx (whom she calls "Buddy") are also going to be there. Portia invites her father to come to this family reunion, and he accepts.

That night as Dr. Copeland lies in bed, he remembers how he worked his way through school in the North and returned ten years later to become a doctor. He remembers the rage that would rise in him sometimes at the condition of the black people, and how one evening he took a hot poker from the hearth and struck Daisy because she did not share his rage. After that incident, Daisy moved out and took the children with her. He did not see them for a long time.

Dr. Copeland goes to the reunion, but all that Hamilton and Grandpapa and Portia will talk about are religious revelations. Dr. Copeland becomes angry because all the others conceive of God and angels as white people. He becomes so tense and angry that he cannot eat or drink or speak, so he leaves. The next morning, Dr. Copeland goes to talk to Singer, which eases him a little. But on his way out, Jake Blount bumps into him on the stairs and makes him angry again, even though Jake apologizes.

Chapter 4

This chapter is told through Jake's point of view. Jake brings ale up to Singer and tells Singer that in his youth he used to want to be an evangelist, but then he got to know a woman named Miss Clara. After Jake met her, he began to read lots of books, which changed his outlook on life. He says that the poor people under a democracy have lived with the "lie" of equality so long that they cease to see the injustice inherent to the system. He tells Singer how he tried to assemble a group of people to riot and go on strike, but the group fell apart. Talking to Singer and drinking appear to be the only things that can soothe the constant rage Blount feels. Then Blount decides that being mad will not do any good, and that the best he can do is try to educate people.

On his way home Jake walks through an alley and sees an inscription—"Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth"—written in red chalk on a wall. He writes beneath this message that whoever wrote those words should meet him there the next day at noon, or even the day after. Jake waits for two days but nobody appears. On the third day a rainstorm begins and the words wash away.