Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Best known for his journalism and his novels, Trumbull Park (1959) and the posthumous The Myth Maker (1969), Frank London Brown sets most of his fiction in working-class Chicago during the era of the Civil Rights movement. His usual setting is an area of work or home where blacks and whites must meet and engage one another. His first novel, for example, is named for a well-known housing development and recounts the racial violence of the late 1950’s, when the real-life Brown family were among the first African Americans to take up residence there. In his fictional account, all blacks are subjected to a massive campaign to drive them out: anonymous threats, screaming mobs, bombs thrown through windows. The police are at best callous and indifferent. Ugly, smelly, clanging paddy wagons are ever present, carrying the blacks past the mobs to work, markets, and schools, even to hospitals to bear their children. However, the overarching element of the book is noise—raucous, unyielding noise. A white person is almost always screaming, usually obscenely; bricks shatter windows; firebombs set apartments ablaze; and fire trucks and police cars sound their bells and sirens constantly. Noise and tension feed each other. To relieve the tension, the main character, an airplane factory worker, draws on his favorite music, especially the songs “We Shall Not Be Moved” and “Every Day I Have the Blues.”

These same elements are all present in...

(The entire section is 514 words.)