Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

The broader implications of Some People, Some Other Place are that life is full of desires—people’s desires for themselves and for others, for places to belong, and for love. The story is intertwined with universal themes of good versus evil, charity versus greed, hope versus despair, and love versus hate. It is a story of survival, primarily Eula Too’s survival and empowerment through a tangled web of people, places, and circumstances.

Although the novel is not a love story, it puts forward an underlying theme that if there were more love and more sincere religion in the world, there would be fewer problems and less chaos, confusion, and dissatisfaction in life. The social, political, and cultural commentaries of the novel help ground it in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. For example, the quest of the narrator’s ancestors to live in Chicago corresponds to the history of African American migration at the time, as many people moved westward and northward to major cities in search of better life situations. Cooper also grounds the story in her faith in God, yet she does not overpower the story with religiosity.

As the story develops, so does Eula Too, as readers have the opportunity to see her mature from a naïve, compassionate person into one whose compassion is augmented by critical thinking and self-confidence. The events of her life no longer simply happen to her. Instead, she becomes an active administrator of her own life and orchestrates happiness for herself and for those she encounters. This development is apparent when Eula Too first leaves home, when she invites her sister Earle to live with her in Madame’s home, when she begins to redefine her relationship with Madame after the move to Dream Street, and when she distributes Madame’s money to the neighbors to help them define their respective places in life.