What does the title "Brownies" signify in the story?

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There are a few reasons that Z.Z. Packer could have called the short story "Brownies". The most obvious reason is that the main characters, including the narrator Laurel, are part of a Brownie troop, called troop 909, who are on a camping trip at Camp Crescendo.

However, the...

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title could also refer to the racial elements of the story. The girls from troop 909 are all African-American girls who have never interacted with white people, until they meet the other troop at the camp that consists entirely of white girls. So in this respect, the word brownie could refer to a more neutral color that could potentially bring the two troops together. That they don't come together could be to the attributed to the fact that the story, perhaps purposely, does not represent people considered to have brown skin. Instead, it is one extreme against the other.

In these terms, the reader could see brown as the color, much like grey, that could potentially provide balance and fair thinking. In the story, for example, the black girls, in their hatred and no doubt fear of the white girls, decide to beat up the white girls because someone thinks they overhead one of them use a racial slur against them. While they may have said the word, it turns out the white girls have learning disabilities and the habit of repeating words without understanding there meaning.

So while they must have heard the word from somewhere, and while that confirms that society is racist, it also suggests that there is potentially neutral ground such as the Brownies, where race shouldn't matter.

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What is the impact of the title "Brownies" on the story?

“Brownies” is a short story by ZZ Packer. It was first published in 2003 and follows the story of a group of Brownies who are at summer camp at Camp Crescendo.

When explaining the importance of the title, you may first of all wish to explain what the term “Brownies” usually refers to. The Brownies are a section of the Girl Scouts that is open to younger girls, usually between the ages of around seven to ten years. Brownies usually engage in various social gatherings and activities. A highlight of being a Brownie is the summer camp, when lots of young girls get to camp together, away from their parents. This is what the girls in the story are doing.

However, in order to fully appreciate the impact of the title of this short story, you need to also point out that the Brownies in the story are black. This makes the title of this short story a lot more poignant, as this means it just referring to a section of the Girl Scouts. Instead, it also carries a racial connotation, as it could also be seen as a derogatory term for black girls. Bearing in mind that the story deals with racial conflict, as of one of the black girls claims that she had been called “a nigger” by a white girl, the title could also be interpreted as a hidden hint towards the plot of the story.

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How the title "Brownies" and the story complement one another.

Being a Brownie is the early training for being a Girl Scout, and both organizations exist to empower girls to be their best selves and to serve their communities and learn how to be leaders. Brownies are typically up to about eight years old. The troop that the narrator, Snot, is in is composed entirely of African American girls. Because there is a theme of race-consciousness and a hyper vigilance within the girls to acts of racism, the double entendre of their skin color is meant to be tragicomic. The diminutive of "ie" on the end of the word signals their youth; there are brown in skin color, but very young in terms of life experience. At the same time, they have been socially conditioned by their parents and society to be aware of the racism that will be a part of their daily lives in America.

The pejorative of "retarded" that is used by Snot's troop to describe the girls of Troop 909 and the accusation of Troop 909 using "nigger" to describe Daphne are equally hurtful, divisive, and destructive. The way that Daphne reacts, by opting out of any acts of retribution, is akin to the humility that the Mennonites show in painting the porch of Snot's family. Snot is able to see this and begins to doubt the morality of what her father, an adult, has done in taking advantage of the Mennonites. At least two of the Brownies, Daphne and Snot, are on their way to becoming their best selves, and perhaps one day will become leaders, as well.

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