God Bless the Child is the tragic story of the short life of Rosie Fleming, who chases a false dream and dies in pursuit of it. The narrative begins when Rosie is seven years old. Readers soon learn of the early influences that indelibly shape the impressionable mind of young Rosie. The first is Rosie’s father, who has already abandoned the family when the novel opens. That event has led Rosie to believe she is unlovable. This initial seed of insecurity is inadvertently fed by Queenie, whose attempts to make Rosie independent are interpreted by Rosie as further evidence of her own inadequacy. Lourinda, the self-absorbed grandmother who idolizes the white world in which she vicariously lives as a servant, is responsible, however, for strengthening and bringing to fruition the self-hate growing within Rosie. The seemingly harmless reveries in which Lourinda regularly indulges about the lives and possessions of her white employers further diminish Rosie’s chance to find the nurturing she needs. Unlike her golden-skinned mother and pale grandmother, Rosie is as dark-skinned as her father, a man Lourinda describes as “no count” and “black as tar.” Not only is Rosie not white, she is impossibly black, impossibly removed from the full affection Lourinda reserves for her white employers.
Despite her problems, Rosie is a precocious and shrewd child. She knowingly negotiates The Avenue, a neighborhood street populated by derelicts, drunks, and members of the criminal underworld. At only seven years old, Rosie seems to have no illusions about or apprehension of these adults or places, except an intuitive fear of a local pimp, Shadow.
Further insight into Rosie’s emerging character is gained when the usually truant Rosie encounters schoolmate Dolly Diaz, who is dutifully heading to school. From this chance meeting, two things become clear. First, Rosie has developed a strong contempt for proper or legitimate means of action. Second, Rosie has indeed developed a tough veneer, which she uses to scare away Dolly’s tormentors. In school Rosie is smart, despite her regular truancy.
(The entire section is 869 words.)