The word boys in the novel are essential because it portrays how young and innocent Irene’s sons are. Irene tries to protect and conceal them from both the arguments that she and her husband have and the danger of racism in society. She tries to hold onto their innocence as boys and impede any teachings that may make them stray away from what they don’t know. Her husband Brian, is a black man who wants to educate and prepare his sons about lynchings and the precautions that they have to take when they get older and don’t have their parents to protect them. Brian realizes that although his sons are still boys, they are black and aren’t passing like his wife, so he feels it is his duty to tell his sons about what he has to deal with and what they have to face as they get older.
The image that I used above of Emmitt Till and his mother is symbolic of how young he was when he was murdered by white men for looking at a white woman. Like Irene’s sons, they were just boys and they need to be taught the precautions that they have to take in society because age will not stop them from getting hurt by others.