Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Campbell’s portrayal of the inner lives of her characters attempts to convince both African American and white readers that there is hope for racial harmony and understanding. In revealing the secrets of class and color prejudice within the African American community, she opens up a world generally unknown to white readers. She brings to the fore the emotional conflicts faced by African Americans, who must balance their own hopes for personal success against the urgent needs of their African American “brothers and sisters” of the title. Campbell is unsparing in her portrayal of the welfare mentality and the painful demands made on strong African American men and women by their less successful relatives. Although she portrays her white characters with some insight, her African American characters, plagued by their own anger and insecurities, seem more likely to evoke empathy in readers. Ultimately, the author believes that trust and friendship between the races is possible if each is open to compromise and the willingness to abandon society’s false standards. However, this ideal is a work in progress, and its realization will require heroic compassion and the resolve to understand others who are different. In one interview, Campbell cited her belief that her fiction has a message. As human beings, she implied, we are all responsible for one another, regardless of race, income, or social class.