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Illegitimate Births

In Brewster Place, births are nearly always illegitimate. Every child we hear about is missing a father, from Mattie’s son to all of Cora’s children. These children are missing half their identities, and their fates seem dire—just as the fate of Brewster Place itself seems dire. Brewster Place’s conception is even referred to as a bastard birth. From the moment of Brewster Place’s creation, its fate is sealed, the buildings and their inhabitants destined to live in ever-worsening conditions.


The men in The Women of Brewster Place are masters at disappearing. Faced with any hardship or difficulty, men such as Basil, Eugene, and Butch run from any responsibility. Their flight is in direct response to any perceived threat to their freedom. Basil disappears when faced with the remote possibility of going to jail. Eugene disappears once his responsibilities as a father and husband become too demanding, and Butch Fuller lives a philosophy dedicated to living in the moment. While the men in the novel are constantly running away, the women are constantly returning home to one another.

Blending of Lives

In The Women of Brewster Place, Naylor portrays a broad spectrum of women to show the similarities and differences between the experiences of each generation. In every encounter between an older and younger woman, past and present blend together, and the connection between generations adds perspective and historical depth to the experiences of each. For example, despite Kiswana’s dramatic differences of opinion with her mother, she comes to recognize that her life, in fact, is not so different after all. She is merely living her own slightly altered version of the life her mother lived. That realization restores the connection that had previously been threatened when Kiswana insulted her mother.