How could the East and West End in Maniac Magee be compared and contrasted?
In the town of Two Mills, the East End is black and the West End is white.
Maniac runs away from his foster home after his parents die. The relatives who took him in were just not up for having a child. He is from Bridgeport. He finds himself in Two Mills, Pennsylvania, and it is a very segregated town. He has no idea about this when he first wanders into the East End, and Amanda Beale explains it to him.
"Where are you from? West End?"
She stared at him, at the flap-soled sneakers. Back in those days the town was pretty much divided. The East End was blacks, the West End was whites. "I know you're not from the East End." (Ch. 2)
It seems that the two groups do not mix much. If you are white, you simply do not live in the East End and you do not visit there. You do not socialize with the people there. Maniac realizes this more and more the longer he spends time in Two Mills, but he never really understands why. Race just isn’t that important to Maniac.
Maniac befriends Amanda Beale, and even moves in with her family. They are a good family, and he is thrilled to have a home and a real address. Unfortunately, the idea of a white boy living with a black family is not popular in Two Mills. The family is targeted with discrimination and Maniac leaves to protect them.
When Maniac meets Grayson, the old man who keeps the zoo grounds, Grayson is surprised he has lived with a black family. Maniac convinces him that the Beales are just like anyone else.
The old man stared. "You said Sycamore?"
"Ain't that the East End?"
With his fingernail, he scraped a path of dirt off the kid's forearm. He stared at it.
"What are you doing?" the kid asked.
"Seein' if you was white under there." (Ch. 22)
Other than the strict racial differences, the East End and West End of Two Mills are a lot alike. It is a working class town. The local children are steeped in legend. They add Maniac, the strange new kid, to their storytelling. He is odd, and seems larger than life. He is not afraid of Finsterwald’s, and he takes a bite of out Mars Bar’s candy bar. He races Mars Bar backwards and wins. He can untie any knot. He is a mystery and an anomaly, but really just a kid.