Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Baltimore: A Wealth of Diversity

In her novel Butchers Hill, Laura Lippman gives us an interesting first hand look at the different faces of the city of Baltimore. She describes many different areas, from the ritzy to the run down, thereby illustrating the cultural diversity of Baltimore.

In reference to Butchers Hill, Mr. Beale says, “This neighborhood is worse than it was when I went in. I guess hell got even hotter” (Lippman 11). This area is described as particularly unsafe and decrepit right from the beginning of the novel. Later on in the novel, another economically deprived and unsafe part of the city, Washington Street, is mentioned. Tess says, “The children of Washington Street couldn’t even afford the luxury of running barefoot through their own dreams” (Lippman 57). This bold statement describes the true atmosphere of certain parts of Baltimore, and on a larger scale, all cities. In addition to her description of these areas, Lippman incorporates wealthy areas of Baltimore into her novel, which gives us a full picture of Baltimore. Tess says, “Clarkesville is home to some of the ritziest subdivisions around” (Lippman 77). However, this town had changed, according to Tess. She had remembered it as “farmland, a few simple houses scattered among trees” (Lippman 78). Therefore, even newly developed areas may have started as something completely opposite, which illustrates the ever-changing nature of all cities. The upper class area of Columbia is referred to as “utopian” (Lippman 118). In addition, the Harborplace is mentioned as one of the newer, more “touristy” areas of Baltimore. Clearly, there are many different sides of Baltimore, as is true of any city.

The more I explore cities, the more apparent it becomes that cities can be summed up in one word-diversity. Even a city that is considered somewhat wealthy has its poor sections and multicultural areas. Cities attract all different types of people, which can be appealing or not, depending on the individual. The novel Butchers Hill sums up this recurring theme of diversity perfectly when Tess says, “Rich Baltimore, poor Baltimore. Old Baltimore, those folks who can trace their blue blood all the way back to the Ark and Dove, and immigrant Baltimore. I just never thought I’d feel like I was in a foreign land less than a mile from my own apartment” (Lippman 110). Although the feeling of being a stranger amidst many people can be intimidating to some, it can also be an eye-opening experience. I believe that exposure to the areas of Baltimore other than Fells Point and the Harbor can allow everyone to expand their horizons a bit and perhaps discover something exciting. Either way, encountering diversity in the city is a chance for everyone to broaden their limited vantage point. Loyola College may be one of the most homogenous campuses around according to Princeton Review, but we have opportunities for encountering diversity, which most college students do not have available. If we venture out into the city (especially the lesser visited, but still safe parts), we may be able to at least witness, if not interact, with the diverse Baltimore that Lippman describes.