The rope that Willie Johnson ties into a noose in preparation for the white man’s arrival symbolizes Willie’s vengeful desire for authority and control over the white man. Tied as a noose, the rope is a racially-charged symbol that points to a long, dark history of racism in America. Willie’s own father was hung by racist white men in the American South, so by greeting this white visitor with a rope—noose already tied—Willie makes his vengeful intentions clear. Prior to the white man’s arrival, Willie visits every house in town and tells the residents to bring guns and rope so that the visitor will have a proper “welcoming committee.” In this way, the rope is an assertion of authority and power meant to immediately show the white man that he is unwanted on Mars and will be subjected to the same inhumane treatment that the Martians received on Earth. In a show of power and aggression, Willie holds a noose for the entirety of the white man’s speech. Because Willie is the unofficial leader of the gathered mob, everyone watches him during and after the speech to gauge his reaction. Upon this realization of the suffering endured by Earth people during their atomic war, he drops the rope from his hands, signaling to the crowd that they must not attack the white man and spurring others to rush to remove all of their newly-installed artifacts of segregation. For Willie, dropping the rope represents letting go of his bitter longing for revenge and allows a new era of peace and acceptance to unfold.
The Rope Quotes in The Other Foot
“You ain’t going to lynch him?”
“Lynch him?” Everyone laughed. Mr. Brown slapped his knee. “Why, bless you, child, no! We’re going to shake his hand. Ain’t we, everyone?”