The Effect of the Men on Brewster Place
The women of Brewster Place seem unable to establish true independence, in the sense that they constantly rely on men to satisfy their desires, rather than seeking satisfaction from more permanent and nourishing sources. The male figures in this novel weaken the loving and ambitious emotions each woman possesses deep inside of her being.
When speaking of the child she has with Butch, Mattie says, “This baby didn’t really belong to him. It belonged to something out there in the heat of an August day and the smell of sugar cane and mossy herbs” (22). Mattie’s passions overrule her reason in regards to her relations with Butch. His good looks and suave manner win Mattie over and persuade her to partake in an action in the heat of the moment, without much thought for her own desires or future. Rather than supporting Mattie, Mattie’s father violently reacts to the news of Mattie’s pregnancy, thereby leaving Mattie without a truly loving, supportive male figure in her life. Similar to Mattie, Etta Mae sleeps with a pastor whom she barely knows purely to satisfy her desires, which reflects her lack of strength and independence, as well as his corruption. The pastor does not respect Etta, and Etta does not respect herself by allowing him to feel this way about her. He says, “That’s the nice thing about those worldly women. They understand the temporary weakness of the flesh and don’t make it out to be something bigger than it is. They can have a good time without pawing and hanging all onto a man” (73). The pastor is comfortable with the fact that he can have a one night stand with a Brewster woman, which shows the lack of respect men have for these women in general, but more importantly, the lack of dignity these women have for themselves. Kiswana’s situation is very similar to Mattie’s and Etta Mae’s, in that she also sacrifices some of her individuality and dignity for the pleasures of being with a man. When her mother stops over to see her apartment, she is astonished to see her daughter’s polished nails. She says, “ ‘Since when do you polish your toenails?’, she gasped. ‘You never did that before’”(87). Kiswana sacrifices her own tastes in order to satisfy the sexual desires of the man she is with. These Brewster women have desires and want them fulfilled, but they seek fulfillment in the wrong way by consummating with men that are selfish, superficial, and weak.
What strikes me about these women and their relationships is that their part of the city seems to be a trap, in a way. These women cannot seem escape negative relationships. Rather than making a name for themselves and becoming strong, independent women, these women make poor decisions by submitting their will to men of no worth, and thus continue this cycle in Brewster Place. It is amazing how generation after generation can continue in the same manner, even if there are lessons to be learned. Sometimes the city can be a trap, rather than a place of thriving opportunity. I specifically recall the city report which included a clip from “The Wire”, as it relates to this subject. This clip pertained to the unending cycle of drug use that is prevalent throughout the city of Baltimore. In the same sense, the women of Brewster Place seem to be caught in an additive cycle that takes away from their opportunities and directs their ambitions towards unfulfilling ends, in my opinion.