“The Whole Town’s Sleeping” Summary: Ray Bradbury Short Story Synopsis

The Whole Town's Sleeping Summary Ray Bradbury Short Story Synopsis
“The Whole Town’s Sleeping” Summary

“The Whole Town’s Sleeping” is a short story by Ray Bradbury about three women who go out to a movie despite the threat of the Lonely One, who’s been targeting women in the area. It’s an engaging story with gradually rising suspense. Here’s a summary of “The Whole Town’s Sleeping”.

“The Whole Town’s Sleeping” Summary

Lavinia Nebbs sits on her porch drinking lemonade at twilight, about seven o’clock. When Francine arrives, she locks her house and they start out walking for the movie theater. Passing by Miss Fern, she warns them about the Lonely One, who’s been strangling women.

He’s struck twice before and now Elizabeth Ramsell is missing. Francine is worried and thinks they should turn back. Lavinia thinks too much is being made of the danger. She convinces Francine to take the short cut with her through the ravine. Francine is worried about Lavinia walking back through it alone later.

Around a bend in the path, they come upon Elizabeth Ramsell’s body. They get the police. Lavinia holds Francine and comforts her while they wait. They leave at eight-thirty and Lavinia still wants to pick up Helen and go to the movie. They need to think about something else.

They see a boy looking mesmerized at the crime scene. Francine yells at him to go away. She sobs as they walk on.

They pick up Helen and tell her about Elizabeth, but Lavinia doesn’t reveal they were the ones who found her. News of the discovery has spread and the town’s houses are locked up.

Walking on, the three women are startled by Frank Dillon, who jumps out at them from behind a tree. Lavinia reprimands him and Francine cries. Lavinia keeps them moving toward the theater.

They stop into the drugstore where Lavinia buys some peppermint chews. The druggist tells her a stranger was asking about her earlier in the day and, without thinking, he told him where she lived. Francine is very upset and Helen wants to call a taxi to take them all home.

Lavinia downplays her attractiveness but now that Elizabeth is gone, she’s the prettiest single woman in town. She’s going to watch the movie regardless, so Francine and Helen stay with her. The feature is being shown immediately, without any preamble, so everyone can get home a little earlier.

When the lights go out, Helen is alarmed by a strange man she saw outside who’s now sitting behind them. She runs up the aisle, calling for the lights and the manager.

“The Whole Town’s Sleeping” Summary, Cont’d

Afterward, at the drugstore having a soda, Helen is embarrassed. The man was the theater manager’s brother from out of town. Lavinia believes the Lonely One is far away by now and will be caught when he comes back.

They leave at eleven thirty. The streets are deserted. The women sing as they walk to Francine’s place. She wants Helen and Lavinia to stay over at her place but Lavinia won’t have it. She promises to phone when she gets home.

As Lavinia walks Helen to her place, the courthouse clock strikes midnight. Arriving at Helen’s, she suggests that Lavinia doesn’t want to live anymore, the way she’s ignoring the danger. Lavinia’s just curious and does enjoy the thrill a little.

Lavinia walks alone on the dark, silent street. She hears a man’s voice singing, and then sees him down the street. It turns out to be officer Kennedy, who offers to walk her through the ravine. She declines and continues herself.

There are a hundred and thirteen steps leading down the ravine, and Lavinia counts as she descends. She remembers a story of a man entering the house while someone was in bed and she screams. She freezes in terror and then feels silly for frightening herself.

Lavinia continues descending. She notices an echo every time she takes a step; someone is following. Her heart pounds and she starts running, down the steps and then across the bridge. She still hears the footsteps behind but doesn’t turn around. She runs up the hill and across the street. She’s panicked now and prays she’ll get home safely.

Lavinia reaches her house and quickly opens the door and locks it behind her. She slumps against the door, relieved to be home and safe. She’s not going to go out at night or use the ravine anymore.

Looking out the window, she sees no one and realizes there was nobody following her. A man would have caught up with her. There’s nothing inherently dangerous about the ravine. Still, it’s good to be home.

As Lavinia reaches out to the light switch, someone in the living room clears his throat.

I hope this summary of “The Whole Town’s Sleeping” by Ray Bradbury was helpful.