Brown Girl, Brownstones: American Dream Winners and Losers

By on March 20th, 2018 in Blog Posts

 

Brown Girl, Brownstones was without a doubt a familiar story to me. The West Indian family that leaves their lives behind in hopes of finding the American Dream. Unfortunately, as it is for Silla Boyce, and many like her, the nation that puts itself to sleep with hopes of having an American Dream did not fall asleep with black or brown people in mind. In other words, as Silla finds out, no matter how much you sacrifice, what you think will make you happy is not what will make you happy in the long run.

Brooklyn is depicted as chaotic and to Silla, in my view, the Brownstone would be the thing that will calm the confusion. Her behavior, selling Deighton Boyce’s land in Barbados, speaking down to Deighton, pushing and pushing no matter who she trampled on, proved in the end not to only lead to a Brownstone of her own but of loneliness and unhappiness. There was no satisfaction at the end for Silla. She had her Brownstone but her husband had either killed himself or died tragically at sea. In the end the person that gets hurt the most is Selina, who must choose between her mother and father, country and native land. Selina, caught in the middle of her father’s desire to go home and her mother’s desire to own a Brownstone, seems almost trapped between her reality and the two futures of her mother and father.

Ultimately, Selina heads out to find her own way but not after having lost her father and part of herself. This experience is that of many people whose family emigrates to America in hopes of a better life via material gains. They end up losing their values and direction after fighting too long for those hopes to become reality. My question is who really wins in these situations?

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4 Comments

  1. Hi, Arelle, I like your question “who really wins in these situations?” and that might well be the tag line to Brown Girl, Brownstones if it were a movie. Marshall gives us a range of portraits of immigrants in America, a variety of ways to assimilate or fight assimilation, strive or refuse to be part of the striving. The ending so brilliantly allows Selina open choices, including to decline any of the options offered to her (by parents, by other immigrants, by her boyfriend). Will she make it? Won’t she? We don’t know. But we know she is a very strong character who has the will to try to find a new way. That’s remarkable, and a really brilliant ending and beginning, isn’t it?

  2. Hi Arelle,
    It’s interesting how you also saw the disillusionment that can happen to those who come to America, and the ease with which anyone can lose their way morally when wrestling with the temptations of this land of material opportunity. Silla does lose a lot in the sacrifice, like you stated, and yet it’s heartbreaking that she does not see in advance that she won’t get what she most dreamed of.

  3. Arelle,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences in this post. You wrote:

    Ultimately, Selina heads out to find her own way but not after having lost her father and part of herself. This experience is that of many people whose family emigrates to America in hopes of a better life via material gains. They end up losing their values and direction after fighting too long for those hopes to become reality.

    This aspect of the novel was fascinating, as Silla seemed to lose her values the more she struggled to get ahead. She strove for something more than material gain, but for power for herself and her family. However, she got this power at her husband’s expense. Perhaps it was her feminist rage for being cheated on and put down throughout their marriage – for not being treated as an equal. Or perhaps it was a complicated greed that prioritized her daughters’ wellbeing above all else. But, yes, she certainly seemed to lose her values somewhere along the way.

    – C

  4. I respect your opinion about Silla. You write: “Her behavior, selling Deighton Boyce’s land in Barbados, speaking down to Deighton, pushing and pushing no matter who she trampled on, proved in the end not to only lead to a Brownstone of her own but of loneliness and unhappiness.” I have to say that I have so much sympathy for her. She could not count on her husband, he constantly cheated on her, and then threw away the most money they had ever had. He was a terrible husband. Now, I am not saying that she wins Wife of the Year, but she was a woman driven to desperate measures. Perhaps we can all have a little sympathy for her.

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