The name of the housing development in which the novel is set.
Although Brewster Place is a physical structure, it is personified and endowed
with a spirit that brings it to life. Brewster Place is at once a warm, loving
community and a desolate and blighted neighborhood on the verge of
The most important character in the novel. Mattie moves to Brewster
Place late in life, after her son abandons her and forces her to lose her home.
Mattie quickly becomes a surrogate mother to several of the women in the housing
complex, offering love and support to women who, like her, have only one another
to rely on.
in-depth analysis of Mattie Michael.
Etta Mae Johnson
Mattie’s childhood friend and a resident of Brewster Place. Etta has
spent her life bouncing from one city and man to the next, constantly in search
of the fulfillment of some unnamed desire. Etta moves into Brewster Place late
in life. When she arrives, she feels that her spirit has broken. Eventually, she
comes to understand the value of her relationship with Mattie.
in-depth analysis of Etta Mae Johnson.
One of the six women portrayed in the novel. Kiswana, whose real name
is Melanie, was born and raised in an affluent black suburb, Linden Hills.
Kiswana, however, drops out of college, changes her name, and moves into
Brewster Place in order to fight for the cultural and class revolution she so
ardently believes in. Kiswana is young and naïve but full of optimism and
The woman who provides Mattie and her son with a home. Eva has a
brief but important role in the novel. Her act of kindness provides Mattie with
a home in which to raise her child. In addition, Eva’s keen insight into
Mattie’s relationship with her son foreshadows the problems Mattie will have
with him as an adult.
Mattie’s only son. Basil is the center of Mattie’s life from the
moment of his birth and grows up under her watchful and loving eye. He is unable
to accept any responsibility for his actions, and, as an adult, he kills a man
in a fight. While out on bail, he selfishly decides to flee and forfeit his
mother’s house rather than risk even the slim chance of going to
Mattie’s one-time lover and Basil’s father. Butch lives his life only
for the moment. He moves from one woman to the next, always leaving before any
problems or trouble can arise. He indirectly passes his life philosophy on to
One of the women of Brewster Place. Cora, from a young girl, is
obsessed with new baby dolls, demanding a new one every Christmas of her
childhood. She grows up to have a number of different children by different men
and is unable to care for any of them.
in-depth analysis of Cora Lee.
One half of the lesbian couple portrayed in “The Two.” Lorraine is
skinny, light-skinned, and sensitive. She is overly concerned with the way
people treat and judge her for her sexuality. She tries to fit in with the other
women of Brewster Place but is rejected. She eventually finds comfort in Ben,
whom she murders after being gang raped in an alley.
in-depth analysis of Lorraine.
One half of the lesbian couple portrayed in “The Two.” Theresa is the
opposite of her partner, Lorraine. She is shorter, darker, and more attractive.
Theresa is a strong-willed, commanding woman who tries not to care what anyone
says about her, but she is obviously disturbed by the prejudice she and Lorraine
The oldest resident of Brewster Place and a drunk. Ben is the first
African-American to move into Brewster Place. He arrives from the South after
his wife and daughter abandon him. He is tormented by his memories and is
constantly seeking solace in alcohol. Ben becomes a brief father figure for
Lorraine, and reveals the depths of his compassion and emotion. He is killed by
in-depth analysis of Ben.
C. C. Baker
The leader of a group of boys who do drugs and rob people. C. C. is a
young African-American male who terrorizes his community with drugs and
violence. He is the primary figure responsible for Lorraine’s rape. He takes out
on her, and the other residents of Brewster Place, his frustrated
One of the women of Brewster Place. Lucielia is Eva’s granddaughter.
She appears again in the novel as a young woman with a daughter, Serena, and a
worthless boyfriend, Eugene, whom she loves desperately despite his
shortcomings. Lucielia is heartbroken and devastated after Serena
Lucielia’s boyfriend and the father of her daughter, Serena.
Eugene, like many of the other men in the novel, is irresponsible and too
self-absorbed to be concerned with the consequences of his actions. While
fighting with Lucielia over his decision to leave her and Serena, Serena
accidentally kills herself.
A resident of Brewster Place. Sophie is responsible for leading the
campaign against Lorraine and Theresa. She is petty and vindictive, and her
attacks on Lorraine are rooted in her own insecurities.
Kiswana Browne’s mother. Ms. Browne is a prosperous, middle-aged
black woman who lives in affluent Linden Hills. Despite her daughter’s claim
that she is divorced from the black community, Ms. Browne reveals herself to be
a thoughtful and proud woman who wants only what’s best for her