Lost in the City: Stories Characters

Edward P. Jones
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Lost in the City: Stories Summary & Study Guide Description

Lost in the City: Stories Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Lost in the City: Stories by Edward P. Jones.

Robert Morgan appears in The Girl Who Raised Pigeons

Robert Morgan is not the protagonist in the story but he is one of the major characters that presents a marked contrast to many of the other principle male characters presented in the collection of stories. He is a black man with a daughter. His wife and her mother died from wasting disease shortly after delivering Betsy Ann. Robert married when he was just eighteen and within ten months was a father and within two further months was a single father. His initial reaction was understandably feeling overwhelmed and incompetent. However, his family and friends assisted him to transition into the role of father. He has raised Betsy Ann while living in a rented apartment in the home of Jenny and Walter Creed. Jenny has become something of a mother figure to Betsy Ann. Robert supports his daughter by working long hours each day. He sees in her his own hope for the future and is a very protective and able father. Robert allows Betsy Ann to adopt some pigeons. He builds a coop and for the next several years, he rises very early every morning to check the coop for dead birds so he can spare Betsy Anne's feelings.

Robert's relationship with Betsy Ann becomes strained and then fundamentally changes however. Betsy Ann is caught shoplifting and Robert is aghast at her behavior, correctly demanding that he raised her better than shoplifting. Although Betsy Ann does indeed reform, her father partially withdraws from her. She attributes this solely to her shoplifting but there is undeniably an element of her impending maturity involved in the distance that grows. When the story opens, Betsy Ann is fifteen and Robert is thirty-three. At the end of the story, Robert discovers that rats have invaded the pigeon coop and maimed many of the birds. He tells Betsy Ann to stay inside while he euthanizes the maimed animals and collects the dead.

Cassandra G. Lewis appears in The Night Rhonda Ferguson Was Killed

Cassandra G. Lewis, the protagonist of The Night Rhonda Ferguson Was Killed, is a foul-mouthed and bad-tempered teenage girl in the process of flunking out of high school. She smokes heavily. The boys that she knows have nicknamed her Tank and Mack Truck, describing both her physicality and exceptionally forceful personality. Cassandra dislikes school and hopes that one day a teacher will give her some pretense of an excuse to start a physical altercation. Cassandra appears to be more-or-less homeless, although she frequently stays with her sister and brother-in-law. Her relationship even with these caregivers is quite strained and she drives a car that she stole from her brother-in-law. Cassandra idolizes Rhonda Ferguson, her friend and a neighborhood celebrity. Rhonda has recorded a song that is becoming a hit on the radio. Cassandra mistakenly believes that Rhonda has found a way to escape the crushing poverty of the neighborhood. Cassandra has several friends although she treats them poorly. She is at least marginally attractive on some level because a young man she meets asks her to the movies. Her natural suspicions prevent her from fully accepting. Cassandra gets quite exasperated with her friends who always talk about men and sex because she feels the constant chatter is demeaning and insipid. While Cassandra is quite abrasive and refuses to apologize, she does understand the subtle complexities of friendship.

Caesar Matthews appears in Young Lions

Caesar Matthews is a twenty-four-year-old black man living with a woman of recent acquaintance. Caesar has spent the past six years living a life of escalating criminal involvement. He specializes in confidence cons or outright burglary. During a recent store robbery, Caesar murdered the store clerk for no apparent reason. Caesar occasionally does odd jobs for Manny Soto, a local fence. In the past, Caesar worked closely with an older confidence man named Sherman Wheeler. Sherman took Caesar in when he was a youngish teenager and taught him the methods of successful crime. Under Sherman's tutelage, Caesar first burglarized his own father's home and then moved on to opulent homes in the metropolitan area. Sherman seemed to prefer to specialize in scams taking prolonged setup and some measure of skill. Sherman eventually overdosed and thereafter disappeared from the criminal life, taking a job as a security guard in a museum. Caesar views Sherman's defection as a minor affront but is determined to continue being a criminal on his own merits.

Caesar tracks a retarded woman that he has marked and then forces his girlfriend to trick the retarded woman out of her paycheck. After Caesar's girlfriend gets the money, he takes it from her, beats her severely in a public park, and then leaves her on the ground. His last thoughts are where he can find a place to sleep for the night. Caesar is easily the least sympathetic character in the collection of stories in the book.

Marvella Watkins appears in An Orange Line Train to Ballston

Marvella Watkins Velle is a single mother of three children that includes two sons and a daughter. She has a full-time job and spends much of each morning riding the metro subway to take her children to school and then to go to work. The main train Marvella takes with her children is the Orange Line to Ballston, although her particular journey allows her to take a Blue Train if it arrives first as the Orange and Blue lines parallel each other along her trip. One day, Marvella's children strike up a conversation with a man who is also riding the train. The man has dreadlocks, apparently has a job with somewhat irregular hours, and is quite friendly but typically reserved. Over several weeks, Marvella and her kids see the man several times and each time her children engage him in conversation. Marvella comes to find the man attractive and begins to plan her comings and goings to maximize her chances of riding on the same line and same train as the man. She spends a lot of time thinking about the man and wondering how she can catch his eye. The man likes Marvella's children but seems oblivious to her flirting. Eventually the man's presence on the train becomes less frequent and then one day Marvella realizes that she has not seen him for many weeks.

Madeleine Williams appears in The Sunday Following Mother's Day

Madeleine Williams is the protagonist in The Sunday Following Mother's Day. The story follows her progression from a six-year-old girl to an adult woman with a child of her own. Madeleine spends the first six years of her life in an apparently normal family situation, living with her older brother Samuel Jr. and her parents, Samuel and Agnes Williams. There is no hint of dysfunction in the family and they appear to be a normal middle-class black family living in an urban center of Washington D.C. When Madeleine is six years old, however, her father murders her mother one night while the children are sleeping. Samuel stabs Agnes repeatedly and then calls his sister, Madeleine's aunt Maddie, and tells her what he has done. Maddie calls the police who arrest Samuel. He does not attempt flight and does not resist arrest. During his trial, he offers no defense and no explanation. Samuel is sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. Madeleine and her brother go to live with their aunt Maddie. When Samuel Jr. turns thirteen, he refuses to visit his father in prison, but Madeleine keeps up sporadic visits and communications. Madeleine grows up and at age twenty, takes Curtis Wallace as a lover and about a year later, delivers a son whom she names Samuel.

Madeleine's son is severely mentally handicapped and is placed in a government home. Madeleine visits him routinely but he does not know who she is. When Madeleine is twenty-six years old, her father is released from prison. He continues to write her and he gets a job as a short order cook. Madeleine has become very successful in her profession and is wealthy. Her father stops in to visit one day, unannounced, and Madeleine is caught off-guard. They spend time together visiting her son and Madeleine feels very estranged from her father.

Lydia Walsh appears in Lost in the City

Lydia Walsh is a very successful professional woman who lives in her own home in a plush gated community. She dresses sharply, attends numerous professional functions, and enjoys picking up strange men for sexual liaisons. Lydia is a heavy cocaine user and drinks often. Lydia wakes one night to an incessantly ringing telephone. Somehow knowing the telephone call brings bad news, Lydia waits for many rings before answering it. The telephone call informs her that her aged mother, Cornelia, has died in hospital. The news does not come as a surprise. Lydia dresses and calls a cab. Instead of going to the hospital, however, she tells the cab driver to simply drive around and get lost in the city. She shoves a handful of cash at him and he drives through various back streets in poor neighborhoods, assuming Lydia will be unfamiliar with the areas. nstead, Lydia recognizes every street and remembers her early life of poverty, growing up in the very areas the cab driver takes her to.

Joyce Moses appears in His Mother's House

Joyce Moses is a single mother of three children, Santiago, Taylor, and Clovis. The children have different fathers and Joyce is living with Ricky, another man. oyce routinely promises Ricky that she will soon get pregnant and have another child with him but in fact she has been medically sterilized. Her deception of Ricky is typical of her outlook on life in which morality at best is dubious and always circumstantial. Joyce has spent most of her life in abject poverty but recently her oldest son, Santiago, a teenager, has becomes something of a figure in the criminal underworld of the city. Santiago has become very wealthy and has purchased for Joyce a large home in an upscale neighborhood. The home has been filled with all sorts of brand new furniture and things, much of which is still boxed up in closets or cupboards. Joyce is fully aware that her son deals in drugs and that her newly acquired wealth derives from illicit drug deals and other criminal activities but she is not concerned by this. Joyce's close friend Pearl is a lifelong acquaintance. Pearl's son, Humphrey, is the same age as Santiago and at first the two young men entered into the criminal life together. Yet while Santiago has become successful if cold-blooded, Humphrey has become a drug addict and is nominally homeless. Both men view each other's mother as a sort of surrogate mother so that Humphrey calls Joyce "Mama Joyce" and Santiago calls Pearl "Mama Pearl." Joyce's own mother is very estranged from Joyce and her children by their attitude toward crime and illegal money. When Santiago eventually murders Humphrey over some unspoken infraction, Joyce calls Pearl and consoles her but after hanging up the telephone, she surveys her home with pride.

Woodrow L. Cunningham appears in A New Man

Woodrow Cunningham is fifty-two years old, married, employed, and average n nearly all respects. He lives in an apartment with his wife and teenage daughter and spends his time working long hours to maintain a lower middle-class lifestyle. Woodrow returns home from work on day to find his daughter Elaine entertaining several strange boys in the home. He objects and tells the boys to leave. Elaine is antagonistic and openly defies her father's authority. The scene is familiar to any parent, but Elaine's defiance is well beyond normal. She is openly hostile and a brief but intense argument ensues. Woodrow appears used to Elaine's moods but is stymied by her sudden extreme hostility. hat night Woodrow and his wife Rita go to sleep as usual and in the morning Elaine is gone. Woodrow files a police report but gets little support. The police assume Elaine has run away from home and Woodrow rather tends to agree. He spends the next eighteen months canvassing an ever-expanding area, knocking on doors, showing photographs, and searching for his daughter. Elaine never returns home. Meanwhile, Woodrow continues an erratic communication with his father and seven years after Elaine's disappearance Woodrow's father dies.

Carmena Boone appears in A Dark Night

Carmena Boone lives in an apartment complex near several other women. She is presented as a middle-aged black woman who is typical of her economic status and is obviously charitable to her neighbors. She enjoys the companionship of various other women in her apartment complex. Carmena's situation suggests that she is living somewhere near the poverty line and her employment status is not clarified in the story. Carmena has had a close and lengthy relationship with a neighbor named Ida Garrett for many years. Over the past few years, however, Ida's incessant criticism and harping has driven a significant wedge between the two women and during the period discussed by the story, they do not spend much time together. During one violent altercation, Carmena invites several neighbors into her apartment where they pass the hours of the storm in conversation. Ida joins them because she is afraid of the noise and flashes. Later in the evening, the other neighbors return home but Ida and Carmena retreat into Carmena's bathroom, which is the quietest room in the place. They sit in the dark and stuff towels under the door to seal out the storm's sounds. The two women sit in a strained semi-silence as Carmena contemplates their estranged friendship.

Marie Delaveaux Wilsonappears in Marie

Marie Wilson is an aged black woman who is nearly blind. She lives alone although is apparently well liked by neighbors. Marie's neighborhood was once family-oriented and safe but has now become blighted with crime. She lives in an urban center that shows much decay. Marie habitually carries a serrated knife with her whenever she leaves her apartment, and she has used it on one occasion to slash a would-be purse-snatcher's hand. Marie subsists on her Social Security disability payment and lives in constant fear that the Social Security people will cut her off. She knows that any disruption in payments would be financially difficult and almost impossible to rectify. During the story, Marie is repeatedly summoned to the Social Security office to meet with various administrative officials. Every visit entails difficulty and expense for Marie but she always goes. She also always spends hours in a stuffy waiting room and often is not seen before the office closes. Meanwhile, Marie has been contacted by a young university student who is pursuing an oral history project. He tape records Marie as she reminisces about her childhood. At the end of the project Marie receives a set of tapes. After listening to a few seconds of one tape, she packages them up and puts them away, horrified at the sound of her own voice.

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