Sample Essay

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David Bradley’s  novel South Street, centers around a black man’s identity and what it means to be a man, and how social class and race impact the his identity. Black men are weak and insignificant especially in the face of strong and demanding women. In Bradley’s novel, to make themselves relevant, the protagonists create a world where there are no women in a Philadelphia hovel.  Here the men try to hide from the women so that they can explore their male identity. Even though they ignore and alienate the women, yet they still are pivotal in shaping the lives of these men. And it is women whose attraction finally leads them to their eventual fate.

South Street is located within one of Philadelphia’s inner-city in the 1970s. The characters in the novel are a group of working class people, prostitutes, small time thugs, preachers and janitors.  White people who venture into this area are either lost or locked in their cars. The novel celebrates the local culture and language. The narrative is strongly supported by sound. Adlai Stevenson Brown is the main protagonist, ivy educated, poet who comes to find his roots among the black working class. He has left his girl-friend, Alicia an upper-class white woman.  The physical move from middle to working class is also metaphorical because to understand his identity he has to move down. His move from a familiar social level to an unfamiliar one where people regard him with mistrust, he arrives at an isolated space where he is able to explore not only his racial identity but also his role as aback man within that paradigm. Within the novel Bradley is able to explore the male role in isolation, outside the influence of white dominance or prejudices.

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