Male and Female Relationships in 'Calabash Parkway'
The objective of this research study is to examine the male and female relationships in the work entitled 'Calabash Parkway' written by Brenda Chester DoHarris published by Tantaria Press in 2005. Towards this end, this study will conduct a review of literature and specifically reviews of other writers on the work of DoHarris.
Calabash Parkway -- A Novel
The work of DoHarris (2005) entitled Calabash Parkway is written for "her undocumented sisters and brothers, many of whom, have taken great risks and made great sacrifices to enter and live in the U.S., and who prefer to languish in an 'undocumented twilight zone and die rather than remain in an economic and political ferment at home." (Book Shelf, 2008, p.2) The novel's setting is New York City and Guyana in the 1950s. It is reported that DoHarris "pours her heart in the story, assuming as she did in her first novel, a stereoscopic role in some ubiquitous individual overlooking the unraveling of events form the sixties to present." (Book Shelf, 2008, p.2) DoHarris narrates in the first-person and is reported to become personal "as she skillfully weaves herself into the lives of her characters, who are indeed real persons with whom the author actually lived in a very nostalgic distant past." (Book Shelf, 2008, p.2) Calabash Parkway is the second novel of DoHarris reported to be "a professor of English at Bowie State University, Maryland, and a graduate of Columbia and Howard universities, receiving a PhD in English." (Book Shelf, 2008, p.2) Calabash Parkway is reported to be a novel that is "labor-intense…with a serious purpose and a studied appeal for feminist appreciation." (Book Shelf, 2008, p.1)
II. The Women in Calabash Parkway
The objective of Calabash Parkway is to "pay tribute to Guyanese women; hardworking, still young, husband-looking women; with low wage-earning skills; "for whom love and romance were luxuries poor women could not afford." (Book Shelf, 2008, p.1) These women, living in Guyana had dreams of running away to America with plans to later send for their children. The women while in New York City meet men who, while understanding the dreams of these women, "make promises, but eventually betray them." (Book Shelf, 2008, p.1) The men in DoHarris' novel are portrayed as "shifty-hearted philanderers with few redeeming features…" (Book Shelf, 2008, p.1)
The women, who have been raised in the 1950's decade are reported to have been "taught the propriety interest of self-restraints" and therefore instead of responding in outrage instead "experience 'nausea' and retreat to the bathroom to retch…" (Book Shelf, 2008, p.1) However, these women are reported to "carrying inside them like a DNA code a quality that author DoHarris admires…" (Book Shelf, 2008, p.1) That quality is a "dogged insistent" as stated in the work of DoHarris and reported in the 'Book Shelf' review (2008, p.1)
III. Birgalsingh Review of Calabash Parkway
In a book review of Calabash Parkway conducted by Ermeritus Professor Frank Birbalsingh it is stated that DoHarris "…appears largely as observer, listener, and narrator." (2010, p. 1) Calabash Parkway is reported to unite "both the naturalness of a lowly fruit (the calabash) representing the Caribbean with the artificial affluence of a highway (Parkway) representing the U.S. As a way of focusing on Guyanese immigrants living mainly in New York, during the 1970s and 80s. Thus the novel's appeal stems mainly from a central tension in its main characters between their desperate efforts to escape from scandalous conditions in post-colonial Guyana, and their equally desperate struggles to cash in on the ever elusive affluence of the American Promised Land." (Birgalsingh, 2010, p.1)
Gatha and Eustace
The prologue of Calabash Parkway is reported to introduce Gatha, a character in Colored Girl in the Center Ring to be the milted lover of Eustace, a policemen who kills another lover and then commits suicide. Gatha is however, in Calabash Parkway reported as "transformed into a more mature woman who, after reaching New York, mainly through luck, strikes out on a career of stunning resourcefulness and perseverance, working night and day, sending money home to her family in Guyana, prevailing over one setback after the other." (Birgalsingh, 2010, p.1)
Included in the drama of Calabash Parkway is the "global inequality between North and South by depicting this rather abstract dichotomy in concretely human terms of people being forced to struggle for their very survival in alien and daunting circumstances not of their own making." (Birgalsingh,2010, p.1) The stated examples include Gatha losing the money she saved for her visa application to American to burglars and how she thwarts immigration authorities and enter the U.S. through Canada to join with Jack Feelings, her American lover and then dies a tragic death in his arms during a heart attack.
Evadne and Compton, Jennifer and Joy
The struggles of another character in this novel Evadne who came to New York married to a Guyanese American named Compton Thornhill. Evaden's relationship becomes complicated when Thornhill's former lover gives birth to his daughter all of which ultimately results in Jennifer shooting Compton who dies. Unlike Gatha, Evadne does not die although DoHarris writes that she has become undone and needs not only a period of recovery but a chain to reclaim her "psychic wholeness." (DoHarris, 2005, p.131) Birgalsingh states a belief that the most striking of all features of Calabash Parkway is the "documentary fidelity with which DoHarris evokes Guyanese culture and society, predominantly its African variety, both at home and abroad. Nothing proclaims the Guyanese identity of her narrative more than the idiomatic Creole expressions or colloquialisms which, in addition to the speech of her characters, crowd almost every other page of Calabash Parkway…" (Birgalsingh,2010, p.1, p.1)
IV. Subsidiary Plots
Sukhdeo (2005) reports in a review of the work of DoHarris in Calabash Parkway that several subsidiary plots exist in the work of DoHarris and that the one that is the "most touching…is that about Samantha, the product child of a tragic (interracial love affair between Drupattie and Steven Osbourne at a time when racism was threatening an implosion of the Guyanese society." (Sukhdeo, 2005, p.1)
It is reported by Sukhdeo (2005) that DoHarris treats this story with a "delicateness" that illustrates "how close she must have been to both parties, how distraught she must have been by the deliberate destruction of this affair and the lives of both parties, and how close she must have been to both parties, how distraught she must have been by the deliberate destruction of this affair and the lives of both parties and how thrilled she was to learn that the pretty and successful 'dougla' attorney was the one good thing to come out of all the racism and sexism of the time." (p.1)
The work of DoHarris is successful in its descriptions of the struggles of Guyanese immigrants in New York and how they are considered to be "beggars at the gate by such people as Miss Haggerty Responsible for the issuance of Visas." (Sukhdeo, 2005, p. 1) Sukhdeo (2005) additionally notes the creation of family tensions and how that characters are "always suffocated by their feeling, the ambivalence between wanting to escape the narrowness of Caribbean life, and the regret for the relationships they scar and damage after they have left. Even the relationship between 'Gatha's and her own daughters became so coldly strained that the girls referred to her as, 'de lady'." (p.1)
The infidelities of spouses are reported to be such that "lead to treachery and even murder as in the case of Compton who so heartlessly used his mistress's wedding dress to marry his wife, and in his sexist masochism continued in his illicit affair which finally led to his murder." (Sukhdeo, 2005, p.1) DoHarris fully develops her characters and since they…