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Fried Chicken

Lee Smith points out the importance of place to this story in the story itself when she says “since the trial, Mrs. Pegram has been wishing she lived in a big city, so she could be anonymous” – because Smith chose to set the story in a small town, everyone Mrs. Pegram is acquainted with knows about her son’s trial and such a trial is an uncommon occurrence. However, Mrs. Pegram doesn’t really want to be anonymous. She just wants the chance to spend time with people who don’t know her as “the murderer’s mother”, which is why she makes her fried chicken and befriends people passing through the bus station. Because her own son, on whom she relied so heavily to maintain the order in her life, is in jail, Mrs. Pegram always gives her chicken to children or a family.

The contrast in the story between order and chaos is interesting. Mrs. Pegram’s life with her husband, Royal, was chaotic in that they moved a lot and that he became unstable towards the end of their relationship, drinking excessively and abusing her. Her life with Leonard was orderly because Leonard was an extreme creature of habit. However, wherever Mrs. Pegram has lived, she has had work as a housekeeper, and she says that the order she is able to keep in other people’s homes comforts her. Mrs. Pegram has never had control of her life. Her mother, then Royal, then Leonard have dictated her actions. Perhaps her desire for domestic order comes from a need for at least the illusion of control.

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