Comparing Power in Cry, The Beloved Country and The Women of Brewster Place

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True Power in Cry, the Beloved County, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and The Women of Brewster Place

 
     The world sets out to disappoint man. There exists a constant battle in which man has to prove himself by rising up against inevitable pain and destruction. When the struggle we face will end is unknown to us, and remains a mystery. The question of why we are forced to struggle even goes unanswered. Yet to overcome everything trying to disempower man, all we need is love. Through endless possibilities we can both love and use this power to create something more, something so great it enables us to transcend those who try to disempower. Even though this love exists in so many forms and pervades every moment of our lives, the challenge remains to find it. In Cry, the Beloved County by Alan Paton, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Solzhenitsyn, and The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor, the characters depict our endless search for love and the power it carries with it.

 

Perhaps it is the innocence that lures man to them, perhaps it is even their helplessness that compels man to reach out to them, but whatever the cause, people so often find their love within children. Being with a child eliminates all other worries and pains of the world. Paton says as much when he declares, "Now God be thanked that there is a beloved one who can lift up the heart in suffering, that one can play with a child in the face of such misery" (Paton 62). Though Kumalo experiences continuing hardships on his trip to Johannesburg, nothing brings him greater pleasure than when he plays with the child of his daughter. "When he plays with the child, there is something that comes out of him so that he is changed" (Paton 118). Expressed even further is the love created with a child of one's own. Luciela Turner, of Women of Brewster Place, looks at her daughter as her only source of love that has ever come without pain, and the child brings her so much pleasure. "The playful laughter of her daughter, heard more often now, brought a sort of redemption," Naylor says (96).

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This love arising from children brings the characters back to their childhood. This reaching into the past, when life was simple and full of joy, allows a person to overcome the pain that he or she is experiencing in the present.

 

By turning to God, and putting all the faith and hope people have into him, in essence a love of God and the world he created arises. With this love, man can contemplate those things important to him. He comes to understand that God intends life as it is, and therefore turns his misfortunes into fortunes. In One Day in the Life, for example, Alyoshka believes completely in God, and views prison as a way for the soul and God to connect: "Rejoice that you are in prison. Here you can think of your soul," he says (Solzhenitsyn 198). Though everything in the world changes, as the inevitable struggle continues, " it is this world alone that was certain" (Paton 14), referring to the world of religion. There is nothing more powerful than God to some, and the trust they have with Him, no one or thing can try to shatter. They therefore need nothing more than the power they share with God.

 

Experiencing sorrow and hate teaches one to love. When someone has seen the worst and known the pain that life can offer, it also teaches him or her the value of love. Love is not something that can easily be found, and a valuable understanding is to know from where comes love or on whom love depends. After suffering has been endured, people can move on and better their lives. "Pain and suffering, they are a secret. Kindness and love, they are a secret. But I have learned that kindness and love can pay for pain and suffering...so in my suffering, I can believe" (Paton 227). However, without this pain, they might never have known that there is something more the world has to offer. Jarvis is a man who never knew his true son, and the effect his son had on South Africa. Yet he never truly loves nor understands his son until the hatred and depression that comes with Arthur's death. Paton writes of "a life devoted to South Africa, of intelligence and courage, or love that cast out fear, so that pride welled up in the heart, pride in the stranger who had been his son" (Paton 148). Until something is lost, the true value is never quite understood: "It is only as one grows up that one learns that there are other things here than sun and gold and oranges. It is only then that one learns of the hates and fears of our country. It is only then that one's love grows deep and passionate..." (Paton 172). When the love created by sorrow and hate is found, a person rises above those trying to oppress him or her. Already having seen the worst, they now live solely with the knowledge that there is hope no matter how unlikely it might seem.

 

By clinging to the small and rather unimportant details of life, one comes to realize it is these things that bring the most to life. Love, almost like obsession, is formed with a simple object. Whether because of memories attached to it, or because of infatuation, the object serves to create a sense of belonging and comfort. Shukhov carries a spoon with him at all times, linking himself to his past. Just the fact that the spoon is a constant, something he could always count on to help him, brings the spoon a special value. Those regular pleasures that people so often receive are hardly ever truly appreciated. However, Shukhov comes to realize the true value they carry, and how the most miniscule details of everyday life are in themselves deserving of gratefulness: "They cared more for this bowlful than freedom, of for their life in years gone by and years to come" (Solzhenitsyn 151). As Mattie wonders where she went wrong with her son, she forms a dependence on the small things around her kitchen, realizing the importance they are to her. "These were the testimony to her lost years...and would always be there to comfort and affirm when she would have nothing else," Naylor reminds us(Naylor 42). It is ironic how the people and things that apparently should provide the most love and comfort do quite the opposite, while nonliving objects instead replace this lack of love. There exists no longer the need for important and overwhelming needs of life that life is constantly trying to deprive man of. Instead, we are filled with the love that satisfies every human by loving whatever we receive, no matter how trivial.

 

Finding love and comfort in certain people provides us with the need we have to feel as if we belong. This idea of friendship allows people to overcome all barriers that try to destroy someone's spirit. Knowing that there is always someone who cares is so important to people. Finding comfort and relief with this knowledge eliminates other worries. Once people learn to love, and feel that same love back from someone, there is no need for any more joy. This is because every ounce of happiness comes from that one person. Etta Johnson constantly tries to be something she isn't, denying to herself that being with so many men is what will bring her happiness. But she finally comes to understand it is her closest friend Mattie that fills the void of love inside her. As the narrator tells us, "She breathed deeply of the freedom she found in Mattie's presence. Here she had no choice but to be herself" (Naylor 58). Friends understand you like no other people do. They understand the importance of both providing support and allowing a friend to learn for him or herself. "Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when its over" (Naylor 70). This pervasive love among friends provides so much compassion and happiness. Even when the world turns against you, as seen in "The Two", Lorraine and Theresa know all they needed was each other, "that shared moment of invisible communion reserved for two and hidden from the rest of the world behind laughter or tears or a touch" (Naylor 131).

 

Dreaming provides the hope that allows us to love. Our dreams open the world and make anything seem possible. With constant hope, the oppression and failures that have so long been nagging to destroy a person seem distant, almost nonexistent. More importantly, dreaming allows us to love life. We can see that there is in fact a future and nothing is ever hopeless. As Brewster Place deteriorates, it never actually reaches its death, because Brewster Place is not just the buildings and alleys and brick walls, but is in fact etched deeply in the lives of every woman and man who have passed through. As the women continue to dream, and wake up each morning with hope for that day, Brewster Place will never die. Naylor's "colored daughters of Brewster, spread over the canvas of time, still wake up with their dreams misted on the edge of a yawn...They ebb and flow, ebb and flow, but never disappear. So Brewster Place waits to die" (Naylor 192).

 

We as humans need only love to surpass any institution or situation that tries to disempower us. With love comes a happiness that can be found nowhere else. This happiness is all that is necessary to live. No matter what power people take away, no matter how many rights are withheld or how others constantly struggle to be superior to us, love is a power much stronger than anything else is. "But there is only one thing that has power completely, and that is love. Because when a man loves, he seeks no power, and therefore he has power" (Paton 39). With this power also exists happiness in love. The joy and pleasure remove other shadows of doubt and feelings of depression. We are complete with love, which is the sole emotion we spend eternity searching for.

 

Works Cited:

 

Naylor, Gloria. The Women of Brewster Place. 1982; New York: Penguin Books, 1983.

Paton, Alan. Cry, The Beloved Country. New York: Macmillan, 1987.

Solzhenitsyn, Alexander. One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1993.

 

 


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