Sunday, April 10, 2011
Where have all the good men gone, and where are all the gods?
As they ate pieces of sugar cane in the fields, Butch told Mattie to "spit it out while it's still sweet". Not only does this foreshadow their relationship, but it also illustrates a theme of movement and rearrangement that differentiates between men and women in The Women of Brewster Place. Butch spends the sweetest times with Mattie, enjoys the physical pleasure of the moment, then gets out before her father finds out and the baby must be supported. He doesn't get away while the sweetness has ended; he leaves while the sweetness is at its peak.
In many ways, I feel like this typifies many of the men in this novel. So far, only Kiswana's boyfriend is a good man, and he has yet to make a physical appearance (up to where I've gotten). The rest of the men are abusive, neglectful, lustful, animalistic, and negligent. The theme of illegitimate fatherhood runs through the work, as few children are conceived within wedlock or even within a healthy relationship. What I realized, upon this later consideration of Butch's words in the context of the novel, is that the men are taking advantage of the sweetness of the Brewster women.
Take, for example, Mattie and her son, Basil. She loves him unconditionally, and makes huge sacrifices to help him grow up well. She provides for him to the point of spoiling him, and is arguably blind to the rather rotten child she has ultimately raised. In the end, Basil leaves her alone, deserting her as many of the men in the novel continue to do, whether to mothers, wives, girlfriends, or one-night-stands. The Brewster women are unanimously forgiving, endlessly full of hope in the goodness of the men in their lives despite the blatant evidence to the contrary.
To me, this all begs the question of why? Why on earth are these women so willing and ready to return and trust the men that betray and destroy them? What about their histories or personalities make them so vulnerable to these sleazy men?