Every Good Friday Amos Wingo carried a cross on his back through town to remind everyone of the suffering of Christ. Tom hated Good Friday because he was embarrassed by his grandfather’s walk. Tolitha got drunk every Good Friday as her silent protest. The Good Friday of Tom’s junior year in high school Amos, age sixty, decided to put wheels on his cross. One day, Savannah and Tom went to their grandparents’ house. As Amos was fitting the cross for wheels, Tolitha sat inside with Savannah and Tom. She told them how Amos always called to Jesus as they made love. She said in the early days of their marriage he was very anxious to “get at her” and he never talked about Jesus between the sheets. Savannah asked why Tolitha left him. Tolitha said she left because it was the Depression and they were close to starving; she left to find work in Atlanta. She told them she took their father to Atlanta when he was about eleven (five years after she left and had remarried) and she lied to Papa John about who he was. Savannah asked her if she had other husbands. Tolitha said she had a few when she was traveling. The longest marriage lasted six months.
Savannah and Tom went out to help their grandfather and to get oysters for dinner. As they were collecting oysters they saw Snow—a white porpoise that was considered a symbol of luck to the town. When they got back to the dock, Luke was there and the three of them prepared the oysters. Luke said he heard that day that Benji Washington, a black boy, would be coming to their school the next year. Tom called him a nigger; Savannah yelled at him. Savannah told Tom to remember how sad he was when their mother read them The Diary of Anne Frank because they way the Nazis used the word Jew was the same way people use the word nigger.
Amos completed his traditional three-hour walk that Good Friday. When it was over he collapsed and Luke, Savannah and Tom carried him home. The whole way back, Luke told their grandfather how beautiful he was.
This chapter offers an interesting view of the differences between Tolitha and Amos, and the differences between Savannah and Tom. Amos was completely dedicated to God and to Tolitha. Although it seems that Tolitha was a terrible wife, Amos still loved her dearly. Amos is conservative and steadfast, while Tolitha is liberal, and erratic. Tolitha freely talks with the children about her adventures, sex, and her mistakes. Tom is embarrassed and Savannah wants to hear more.
Savannah calls Tom a traditionalist when he expresses concern for how Tolitha left Amos and lied about his father to Papa John. Savannah’s spirit is akin to Tolitha’s spirit—they are carefree.
When they discuss Benji Washington, Savannah is appalled that Tom uses the word nigger. For Tom, this word is a common, albeit crude and demeaning, term. Savannah is able to see beyond the small-mindedness of surroundings and see the word for what it really is. Tom lives his life carefully and does not test the boundaries of his environment. Savannah is exactly the opposite.
Tom goes to Susan’s home to make dinner for her and Bernard. He also brings a uniform as a surprise for Bernard. After some initial confusion, Bernard is thrilled.
During dinner, Tom notices tension between Susan and Bernard. An argument erupts when Bernard asks Tom where he learned to cook. Tom tells him he had to cook when his wife was in medical school. He says he cooks all the meals now since he lost his job. Bernard becomes infuriated and says Tom is not even a real coach. Susan cries, and asks Bernard why he lashes out at everyone who tries to get close to him.
After dinner Tom asks Susan how Bernard acts when Herbert is home. She says that Herbert does not allow conversation at the dinner table. She goes on to tell Tom that Herbert also chooses all of their friends. Tom watches Susan and his thoughts turn to sex. He thinks about how sex has been the central issue of his conflicted manhood. Susan asks Tom if he knows what it is like to be her. He says no. She tells him she is lonely and that she is attracted to him. Tom leaves, but he is very flattered.
Bernard’s behavior toward Tom in this chapter appears to be a reflection of his relationship with his father, Herbert. Bernard feels abandoned and rejected by Herbert so he is anticipating rejection by Tom. When Bernard thinks he has been lied to, he acts out. Susan’s home life appears strained, and in fact, she tells Tom that she is lonely.
The conversation between Tom and Susan after dinner is intimate and borders on flirtation. Tom has already expressed his attraction to Susan, and now she reciprocates. However, the reader must consider that Tom and Susan are each lonely individuals dealing with difficulties in their marriages.