The short story considers the final afternoon in the lives of Jeff and Jennie Patton, a frail elderly couple, who have spent their lives as poor sharecroppers, barely able to make ends meet for themselves and their children. While neither is seriously ill, the severities of farming and aging have guided them toward a mutual pact. Today they will put on their finest clothes and then, drive down the dirt road past their neighbors toward a cliff--and death.

The simple story is gripping as readers discover what this couple is about. While they have been defeated by their tight-fisted landlord and by age, their spirits are indomitable. With charm and pathos, the couple fulfills the pledge they made to one another when no other alternative seemed appropriate.


Bontemps’s story is exceptionally powerful in its portrayal of the journey taken by this decisive couple.


First published: 1933

Primary Source

The Old South: "A Summer Tragedy" and Other Stories of the Thirties


Dodd, Mead

Place Published

New York



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