Brewster Place is a dead-end street in fact and in symbol, for the women who move there are trapped by their hopes and fears. For them, Brewster Place is both the birth and the death of their dreams. The brick wall that separates Brewster Place from the nicer neighborhoods represents the wall of prejudice and shame, racism and sexism that must be smashed by the residents. They alone can effect change in this climate of hostility and mistrust. The garbage in the alley symbolizes the character of the street toughs who run drugs, rape, and kill here. No one can stop them until the women on Brewster Place join forces and souls to fight back courageously against the human trash terrorizing their neighborhood.
Despite the violence in these women’s lives, the language that Naylor uses is as potent and engaging as poetry—colorful and provocative, realistic but not bitter. Thus critics praise Naylor’s style, even as some suggest that hers is not a new story. Her characters are as archetypal as the characters of Porgy and Bess in George Gershwin’s 1935 black opera, as William Bradley Hooper claims, but they are also convincing and vivid, according to Anne Gottlieb.
Some suggest that Naylor’s characters are too stereotypical or flat. For example, many male critics have complained about the totally negative images of black men in The Women of Brewster Place, the same complaint made about Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (1982). Still others comment that Kiswana, the young...
(The entire section is 622 words.)