Fight at a Funeral by Doctor Duke Brown and Professor Judith French is an 82-page short story set in the United States and Jamaica. I would expect to see a story like this in a Literary Criticism class that examines the reader-response theory of analysis. In other words, the reader participates in the construction of the meaning of the story. Were I in the class, I would offer the following observations. Yours may differ.
This might be a story whose center is Mrs. Essie Brown, an old woman living in New York. During her life in the US, she has traveled frequently between the US and Jamaica visiting both her home, where some of her children occasionally lived, and a multitude of other children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, aunts, and uncles. As this story begins, Essie is dying, and her one wish is to return to Jamaica to die at home. There are difficulties in arranging the trip.
This might be a story centering on the house in Glenworth, Jamaica. While in the US for extended periods of time, different relatives lived in the house, some amicably and some not. Some of the relatives had families of their own and the lifestyles of the residents did not always mesh leading to arguments that left some relatives moving out, returning later to find different relatives and further conflicts. It was almost as if the house were witness to family interactions.
Many readers might consider the funeral of Essie Brown the main story. I can not estimate the number that showed up but may that did are named in the description of the funeral. Essie had left a will that would dispose of the house and bank savings. Essie had wanted the will read out in public at the funeral. Many relatives, feeling that they were probably left out, did not want to hear their embarrassment read out loud, opposed the public reading. A true melee was the result.
Finally, this may be a story of family resentments, jealousy, and thoughts of revenge for perceived slights. These slights are not fully explored in this short story. We don’t know why Bengay Leftcap Brown was abandoned as a child. We don’t even know if he was abandoned. Essie is no longer around to explain what happened and Bengay’s resentment was such that throughout Essie’s life Begay never tried to ask for an accounting.
This story can be daunting in its number of sketchily described characters. I found the story interesting because of the Jamaican patois several characters use to describe their interactions with Essie, the house, and each other. I borrowed the book through Kindle Unlimited, so I read the book for “free.” This is the kind of book that makes KU valuable. I may have been upset with the reading experience of this novel if I had paid for it.