The women of the title are the main characters, and Brewster Place is the setting in which they act on, and react to, the circumstances of their lives. Those circumstances are usually disheartening and usually caused by men, who are seen generally as malign forces. Throughout the book, males are shown as causing the adverse condition of women.
Mattie Michael is a pleasant, God-fearing, churchgoing woman with moral strength, who, without the support of other women, might not have survived. Butch Fuller, when he impregnates her, not only destroys her relationship with her father but also changes the course of her life, possibly for the worse. Her father, in his angry frustration, nearly destroys her life when he beats her. Her son Basil breaks her heart by deserting her without a backward glance. Each time, a woman helps Mattie survive. Her mother rescues her from her father’s savage beating by firing a shotgun close enough to his head to get his attention. Etta Mae gives her sanctuary so Mattie can have her child. Miss Eva gives her a home when the one she has becomes unlivable because of rats. The men in her life give little or nothing.
Etta Mae uses men all her life and apparently asks no more from them than she wants. She is a kind of floating concubine for most of her adult life, learning at an early age in Tennessee that her sexual charms attract men who are willing to pay for them. As she grows older and her looks and energy diminish, she wants to settle down, preferably with a kind man who will take care of her. She thinks the Reverend Mr. Moreland Woods is right for her. He seems “well-off,” with his “manicured hands and a diamond pinkie ring,” but he turns out to be a hypocritical opportunist, viewing Etta Mae as someone who can satisfy his “temporary weakness of the flesh.” Forewarned about him by Mattie, who recognizes that Woods is interested only in a “quick good time” with her, Etta Mae finally accepts that her friendship with Mattie might be the only abiding relationship left to her.
While the women are fully drawn characters whose stories explain why they are what and...
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