Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Morrison's Ideas in Naylor's Novel

As I was reading through Morrison's City Limits, Village Values, I immediately saw the connections between what she discusses in her essay and how Naylor writes and creates her characters. Morrison claims that the city has limitations for black people and therefore black writers have their characters do poorly in a city setting. This is interesting as the city is usually considered a place of prosperity and opportunity and the ability to do anything that one desires. But, what Morrison is saying is that white writers and white characters see and experience the city as such, but black writers and characters do not and can not.

This is seen among all the women of Brewster Place. They are stuck in this neighborhood, this city that has stifled their ability to dream and do anything else. We have discussed in class Langston Hughes's poem, What Happens to A Dream Deferred? We stated many times that the dreams don't die and disappear, that they are always doing something, but those actions may not always connote positive things. I saw every woman in the novel have a dream, but unable to reach it within the confines of the story. Even Cora Lee at the end admits to Mattie that she will never get over what happened to her daughter and that she won't even try, because she'll die before that happens, this happens immediately after she returns to Brewster Place from another city on the west coast. Naylor is proving what Morrison says, "for Black writers, the city has huge limits...".

Finally, I see a slight contradiction, or maybe something we never noticed before until Morrison's essay shined light on the situation. Kiswana is in Brewster Place because she wants to connect with her ancestry and she wants to learn what it is like to live like the average African-American woman. Morrison states many times in her essay that the city is not the place where the characters find their ancestry, or that voice of wisdom (although admittedly Mattie comes close), they are supposed to find it in a village setting. Maybe Naylor is trying to disprove what Morrison is saying, maybe she is saying that the ancestral type can be found and thrive in cities and that cities have become more of a hub for cultural history than they were before. But, what I'm also suggesting, is that in light of the argument we have been reading by Morrison, and if it's true that Black writers do not portray their characters as growing in the city, then Naylor never meant for Kiswana to achieve her goal and discover her ancestry. She would have to go to a village or rural setting, something she was closer to when she was in the suburban neighborhood.

Naylor and Morrison together further emphasize the discussion of the dream deferred. They are saying that Black writers can't write a black character to thrive in a city setting, because the opportunities and advancements that are usually associated within a city are put there for white people. So, even with the character Kiswana who has such a bright spirit and who tries so hard to achieve her dreams and goals, will not achieve them in Brewster Place and she will become like all the other women who's dreams were deferred, something we already started to see towards the end of the novel.