Friday, November 10, 2006

Eat a little and think you know Baltimore

Laura Lippman describes her character Tess in the novel Butcher Hill as a very strong and confident young woman . In the novel, Tess moves to a new area in Baltimore and becomes a partner in a detective agency in Butcher Hill. She appears to be extremely intelligent and very aware of her surroundings; however Tess is unable to mentally and emotionally connect to the city of Baltimore.
The novel begins with Tess walking her dog through the city of Baltimore. She describes the beautiful arrangement of the city. She depicts the parks, the streets, and the weather. She states, “ But this was a perfect day. Spring had started out cool and wet in Baltimore this year, then settled into a pattern of eerily exquisite days(19). Tess appears to understand the city. She explains the checkered pattern of the city with it poor areas and its neighboring wealthy developments. Tess continues to walk and explore Baltimore. She stops and even purchases “Berger” cookies to eat on her walk. The Berger cookie is the cookie of Baltimore. Tess is actually consuming Baltimore. Lippman presents Tess’s understanding of Baltimore as a very shallow comprehension. Yes, Tess can observe the city and judge the city and it inhabitants. She can even claim to be physically a part of the city, but she does not connect to the city. Tess emerges herself in the city, and even engulfs the city, yet she is not fully a part of the city . Tess cannot completely understand or connect with Baltimore. Through the novel Tess believes she knows everything about the city and everyone. She has preconceived notions of her clients and the areas she investigates.
Tess’s view on Baltimore reminds me of the simple view Loyola students have on the city. Loyola students might think they understand the lay out of Baltimore, its museums, its inhabitants, and even its food. But this does not necessarily mean that students can cannot and truly comprehend the true nature of Baltimore.