Brown Girl Broownstone by Paule Marshall

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19 March 2016

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Paule Marshall writes about the social issues, the aspects and standards of lack persons living in America. Novels written in 1959 and it explores the black immigrants search for identity in American society. The novel wrote against the stereotypes of the black race and it was a milestone for African-American Fiction. Race and gender are discussed simultaneously as she speaks out against racism and presents her female character as being different form the stereotype The novel centres on Selina who suffers a traumatic childhood through to womanhood and has her psyche damaged by comparing herself to the white ideology of what makes a teenage girl beautiful. She feels inadequate because she does not math up to the definition of white elegance She also faces an internal struggle due to the fact that both her parents have differing ideologies. The title ‘Brownstones’ refers to the milieu in which the central characters live.

The novel begins in 1939 and it opens with the last white residence leaving the brownstones and selling/renting to the Barbadian community . The house, the acquiring of such and the attitude towards the house defined the characters. The house therefore becomes a central symbol in the novel. The title of the novel signal the life of Selina the brown juxtaposes the girl is synonymous to the racial and gender issues at work in the novel. Placing the brownstones next to the girl browngirl emphasises the importance of personal development and individuality. The marshalls description of the brownstones is very telling and suggested “under the thick ivy each house had something distinctively its own these brownstones appear as if they were one house even though individuality is there.” But the novel also suggests that theses brownstones all share the same tragic fate. They are all draped in ivy as though mourning” The novel is divided into four books.

Book 1 entitled A Long Day and A long Night; it sets up the basic tension between n Selina’s parents Silla and Deighton (dispute over land). The second book is titled Pastoral, Selina who is on the verge of adolescence. Selina who goes to Beryl to find a sense of freedom …here we find …. The third book title war corresponds with the world war 2 but is also significant as a symbol of the Barbadian community’s war against racism as well as the conflict between Silla and Deighton The last book title Selina concludes the novel, rev eals the attempts to come to terms with her father as well as a discovery of her true self. The final aspects of her growth are detailed in this section. It is through the relationship with Clive that Selina realizes the numerous similarities between herself and her mother. In the novel the protagonists realizes that the mother is a fellow victim of racism rather than her enemy.

Major themes in Brown Girl Broownstone

1. The Search for Identity
2. The racial issues and relationships
3. Femininity and Gender
4. The Effects of Migration/ Capitalism on the individual
5. The Relationship between the private and the Public, the Personal and the Communal, the Individual vs the Community 6. The Impact of the Environment/ Personal Setting on Personal Development

7. Sexual Awareness and Exploration

8. Nostalgia and the West Indian Condition
9. Male/ Female Relationships and Family

Structural and Technical Devices Used by the Writer

1. Form- Bildungsroman, it is written predominantly in 3rd pov. , divided into four books, the use of quotations from the Barbadian community as preludes

2. Symbolism- The title brownstone houses, Deighton’s land, Barbados, the presence and absence of light is symbolic of awareness, knowledge and maturity

3. Some characters who are symbols are Suggie, Miss Thompson, Miss Mary, Beryl, the Homeowners Association

4. Structural Elements- use of West Indian Vernacular (used to show a sense of identity with their West Indian counterparts)

5. Characterization (in this novel characters are developed through relationships with other characters along with the setting and the author’s description )

6. Plot Structure (the plot is linear and chronological allowing for the adequate development of Selina

7. Setting – New York vs. Barbados and the tension of place

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"Brown Girl Broownstone by Paule Marshall" StudyScroll, 19 March 2016,

StudyScroll. (2016). Brown Girl Broownstone by Paule Marshall [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 29 September, 2023]

"Brown Girl Broownstone by Paule Marshall" StudyScroll, Mar 19, 2016. Accessed Sep 29, 2023.

"Brown Girl Broownstone by Paule Marshall" StudyScroll, Mar 19, 2016.

"Brown Girl Broownstone by Paule Marshall" StudyScroll, 19-Mar-2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 29-Sep-2023]

StudyScroll. (2016). Brown Girl Broownstone by Paule Marshall. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 29-Sep-2023]

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