Brewster Place. Neighborhood in a large, unnamed northern city, possibly New York, possibly Chicago. New York seems more likely since, aside from its being Gloria Naylor’s hometown, there is mention in one episode that the state of “Maine ain’t far” away. Chicago is also a possibility because one character, Etta Mae Johnson, went home to Brewster Place “with a broken nose she’d gotten in . . . St. Louis,” suggesting the distance between the two was not so great. However, the actual identity of the city is not explicitly revealed.
Brewster Place was originally conceived in the story as a way for crooked politicians and businessmen to resolve some of their personal concerns to their political and financial advantage. First Irish, then Mediterraneans, and finally African Americans came to inhabit the district. Though the neighborhood was relatively inviting at first, its streets and buildings were allowed to decline; its one through street was soon walled up to make a dead end, basically isolating the inhabitants from the rest of the city.
The dreariness of the gray tenement buildings, the oppressiveness of the wall, and the segregation make the women of Brewster Place racial, social, and economic victims. Yet they come together finally to tear down the wall, which increasingly seems a manifestation of their oppression, using “knives, plastic forks, spiked shoe heels, and even bare hands” to dismantle it. With this one symbolic act, they demonstrate their determination to change their lives for the better.
Miss Eva’s house
Miss Eva’s house. Home of Miss Eva Turner in Asheville, North...
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