Willie works in the kitchen at the New York Café and lives with his sister Portia and her husband Highboy because he is estranged from his father Dr. Benedict Mady Copeland. Willie plays his harmonica everywhere he goes. He is a sweet young man, but not very bright, and falls for a stripper named Love Jones. He gets in a knife fight with Junebug over Love Jones and is convicted of attempted manslaughter. He is sent to a hard labor prison and while his family tries to start a letter writing campaign, he is severely tortured.