(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

McMillan structures her novel around two first-person narrators. Since both Zora and Franklin narrate the sequence of events as they see them unfold, readers get two different perspectives on the plot. Given this double vision, the reader can interpret and respond to these two major characters without the interference of an omniscient narrator who might suggest how one should think about the characters and their actions. Readers are given the freedom to draw their own judgments. Given the nature of first-person narration, it would seem likely that one would sympathize with both narrators; however, the novel seems to be very much Zora’s story, and the reader’s sympathies align with her struggle. This is not to say that Franklin’s frustration and anguish can be ignored. His narrative brings the reader to a clearer understanding of just how difficult it is for black men to maintain their self-respect in a world that is continually denying them any sort of admiration unless it is for athletic prowess. Franklin is most often treated by the outside world as a social misfit. His struggle to survive in that world is much more difficult than Zora’s.

Zora has the advantage of coming from a middle-class home. Because of their class difference, the novel dramatizes the ways in which not only race and gender can oppress but class as well. Zora has the backing of a concerned and devoted father, a close circle of dependable girlfriends, and credentials that keep her steadily employed as a teacher. Franklin has none of these advantages. His family is completely dysfunctional. His father has lost all ability to stand up to the vicious tirades of his mother, who continually points out Franklin’s failures and never acknowledges his small successes. Franklin dropped out of high school, was discharged early from the military because of his surly attitude, married young, and immediately had two children before he had the means and the maturity to take on the responsibility of a family. Rather than being supported by a group of well-meaning...

(The entire section is 835 words.)