Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. Specifically it will discuss the novel's setting, inhabitants, and neighborhoods, and how they portray a truly "motherless" community. In "Motherless Brooklyn," author Lethem creates an atmosphere that any reader can quickly discover. The flavor and very essence of Brooklyn are captured in a way that makes the reader more sympathetic to the people and places of the community, and how Brooklyn has evolved over the years from neighborhood to one of the most important New York boroughs. Brooklyn will always be different, and no mother will ever claim the community for her own.
Lethem creates a seemingly new world in his novel, especially if the reader is not familiar with Brooklyn. He calls it "motherless" for quite a number of reasons. Some readers may feel that title refers to the four "Minna Men" detectives who are all orphans who grew up in the St. Vincent's Home for Boys in Brooklyn, but it is much more than that. The title really refers to the melting pot that is Brooklyn, and how so many different races and colors settled in Brooklyn, making it a "patchwork" of colors, ethnicities, and cultures, so that no one mother or culture can claim it as her own. Lethem writes in his introduction to the borough, "In short, this jumble of stuff at the clotted entrance to the ancient, battered borough was officially Nowhere, a place strenuously ignored in passing through to Somewhere Else" (Lethem 37). This description is another clue into Brooklyn's "motherless" status. While it is a melting pot with no one culture, it is also "Nowhere," and so no mother really wants to take responsibility for this "errant child" gone bad. The neighborhood is filled with Quakers, Italians, blacks, whites, Jews, Greeks, Puerto Ricans, and everything in between. This borough was "old" New York, where neighbors still new each other and mom-and-pop businesses could still survive and even thrive. Lethem continues, "Minna's Court Street was the old Brooklyn, a placid ageless surface alive underneath with talk, with deals and casual insults, a neighborhood political machine with pizzeria and butcher-shop bosses and unwritten rules everywhere" (Lethem 55). This Brooklyn did not need a mother, because it was ruled by the neighbors, the barbers, and the men like Minna who infiltrated the area and lived by their own rules.
Anyone who has never visited Brooklyn might just think of it as another New York borough, but Lethem's descriptions and clear love for the area show this is not the case. Again, he notes there are rules regarding how each race sees each other, but they are not the rules that most people think of when dealing with the differences between cultures. They are more prejudiced, and yet they create a blend between cultures that is hard to see just about anywhere else. Lethem notes, "It was a form of racism, not respect, that restricted blacks and Asians from every being stupid like a Mick or a Polack. If you weren't funny you didn't quite exist" (Lethem 68). That is just the Brooklyn he wanted to portray in his book -- feisty, opinionated, but able to get along just the same. His descriptions open up the borough to the reader, but they also set the stage for the characters, who are really the very essence of Brooklyn. The descriptions of the area…
Sources Used in Document:
Lethem, Jonathan. Motherless Brooklyn. New York: Doubleday, 1999.