On the same night as Will Mayes’s abduction, Minnie Cooper dresses to go out. She is trembling, feverish and nervous, and her friends come to help her prepare. As they watch her put on her new dress to go out, they want to know more about what happened with Mayes. They ask about “what he said and did; everything.” Minnie says nothing and they all go out to the square, under the oppressive heat of the evening.
Minnie’s nervousness in this scene could be due to a number of different factors: if the rumors are true, she may be dealing with the after-effects of sexual violence. On the other hand, if she made up the rumors, she may just be nervously excited about the attention she is about the receive. Her friends, however, are more interested in the gossip than her state of mind.
As the women walk down the street, Minnie is at the center of the group, and has to breathe deeply to control her trembling. They walk slowly, which gives the people in town a chance to notice her and to discuss the rumor, as well as the new rumor that Mayes “went on a little trip.” At the same time, Minnie’s friends note that there are no black men on the square.
The news of the murder of Mayes has already spread into town, and this brings Minnie even more attention. The lack of black men in the town square suggests that John McLendon’s plan to scare the black men of Jefferson worked—and again reflects that this act of vigilante “justice” has always really been an act of pure racism.
Minnie and her friends enter the movie theater and take their seats. The theater is “like a miniature fairyland with its lighted lobby and colored lithographs,” and this gives Minnie hope that she will be able to calm down and control herself. She attempts to suppress a fit of laughter but is unable to; she is so loud that her friends have to escort her out of the theater.
Like her nerves earlier in the night, it is unclear whether Minnie’s laughter is in response to trauma or simply another grab for attention. Her friends accompany her out of the theater under the pretense of helping her, but again, are more interested in partaking in the gossip.
Minnie’s friends bring her home in a taxi, fan her, rub ice on her to calm her down, and call the doctor. The ice works briefly but does not stay fresh and cold for long in this heat, and as soon as the ice begins to melt, Minnie’s fit of laughter returns.
Part IV closes by reminding readers of the oppressive heat that may have influenced Minnie’s actions as well. Ice is again presented as a symbol of escape from the manic violence whipped up by the heat and prejudice; yet again, it proves only fleetingly helpful.