Loneliness and Interdependence
The story of Mattie Michael shows the loneliness that can be found in people who are too busy for the community of a city. Mattie has greater concerns than finding community as she drags her child across the city, trying to protect her son from unsafe living environs. However, as noted in other posts, this protection quickly turns into a dependence on her son’s affection. With so little to hope for, working two jobs at times and trying to save some money for the future, Mattie’s life becomes lost in the grind of the city and her only focus, outside of work, is Basil. The time jump used by Naylor on page 40 makes Mattie’s aging process all the more shocking, as suddenly one day, “She looked up from the sink and gasped as she caught her reflection in the windowpane – but when had she grown old?” (42) Even Sergeant Manchester refers to Mattie as “this old black woman” (46). The city has taken her life and left her with nothing besides Basil. When Naylor writes, “God had given her what she prayed for- a little boy who would always need her,” (52) the reader understands that the situation is one of interdependence- Mattie has made Basil reliant on her as well, so that she would never be alone.
This section made me ponder whether situations like Mattie and Basil’s exist in Baltimore. The more common belief, with regard to single parent homes, is that children can be neglected due to serious work demands. However, Mattie’s situation seems quite plausible- when everything else is falling apart, the single parent could be drawn to the security provided by her own blood. When life is hard and there is little relief in sight, the support of family- the one constant in a harsh world- could help stave off loneliness and despair.