Thursday, October 26, 2006

Night and Day both literally and figuratively

In Jane Jacob’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities she illustrates how alive each part of the city is. In the portion we had to read she discussed how the sidewalks must be patrolled by the strangers that walk it in order to maintain safety. I thought that it was very interesting that she said the sidewalks are nothing without its surroundings. I wish that she would delve into the fact that the sidewalks change from day to night. She discusses the safety that must be maintained during the day especially but fails to mention nighttime. The failure to distinguish the two reminded me of the Achebe novel in which there is a large distinction made between the Lagos at night and the Lagos during the day. Night, especially in the city, maintains a sense of secrecy, seduction and sexuality. Night does not obey the laws of day and I believe that is reflected in the characters of The Women of Brewster Place.

Each woman has a side that they make visible to the public and they also have a life, which they only become in private. Sometimes the situations are long and drawn out but other times they are short. In the case of Mattie Michael, she exposed herself to her family as a well-mannered proper girl. In her private time she disobeyed her father and got pregnant by the one man he strictly warned her against. Later, when she boarded with Miss Ella she put up a front that she had everything in control. She acted as though she knew the best thing to do in every possible situation, when in actuality she knew that she was only raising her son to be severely dependent on her.

Later, when Etta comes back into town she acts like she is a good-natured Christian woman in Sunday mass. When she sees the Reverend Woods she immediately reverts to her private self that lusts for a life with the Reverend. During her time in NYC she hid herself away from the public, only working during the night, due to the fact that she was a prostitute. Kiswana severely displays a sense of night and day in the expression of her self. She, as a black power activist, wants other black people to feel that she is in every way African, poor, and can sympathize with their situation. In actuality she is from an upper-middle class, well-educated black family. In addition to hiding her family situation she also hides her personal life from her mother in order for her mother to somewhat accept of her new lifestyle.

This culture has unspecified definitions of what is and isn’t acceptable. Everyone has the ability to personalize those definitions, which the readers see happen in the book. The rules give us guidelines to live by and also rules to break. The distinction between night and day, even personally is the fact that during the night, or in private, it is easier to break those rules as opposed to when you are out in the day, in the public’s eye.