To a certain extent, this might be true only because of the fact that white individuals had unlimited access to information while blacks were limited by their masters and by their condition in general. It is as if the audience hopes that everything will turn for the better and that life is not as bleak as Mayme describes it.
Even in the twentieth century, when slavery was but a thing of the past, there were seemingly more white intellectuals than black intellectuals (Kramer, 2006). Is thus explainable why Esther believed that she would find better support in Van Buren. In addition to the fact that she was white, Van Buren also seemed to be the best person to help Esther because she belonged to the upper class, whereas Mayme had a substandard social statute.
The racial factor is frequently referred to during the play, in spite of the fact that slavery was long gone from New York, which was recognized as one of the states in which anti-abolitionists resided in great numbers (Kramer, 2006). Furthermore, Esther's social statute was limited in providing her with the opportunity to claim her rights as a person that was equal to everyone else.
With the opportunity she finds in raising money through selling garments Esther wants to change more than her condition. She wants to change everything about the African-American community living in New York at the time. She is aware of the little opportunities black women have regarding fashion saloons and believes that by establishing a beauty parlor that would also allow black women matters will change for the good.
The beauty parlor can be understood as a tool that would better conditions for all African-Americans, not just for women who want to improve their looks. It would be a place where discrimination would not be present and everyone would have the chance to accomplish their dreams, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, social status, color, or gender.
Everything in Esther's life turns to chaos as George is presented to the audience. He is a totally unexpected factor and makes it difficult for the woman to be able to deal with her plans. Her singleness appears to be stronger than her will to establish the beauty parlor and confuses her to the point where she cannot decide for herself and another dream springs into her life. The dream of finding love is much more intense than her desire to set up the parlor.
At his arrival in New York George discovers that the city is not as welcoming as it seemed and that it is not exactly the land of his dreams. The First Act of the play is filled with concepts that influence the audience in believing that everything is going to be OK eventually with Esther and George meeting each other, marrying, and establish a happy family. This can be associated with the naive nature present in both characters, with their situations being desperate and them being willing to take advantage of the slightest opportunity they encounter in order to accomplish their dreams. The two are enthusiastic about marrying each other in spite of the fact that they are complete strangers and the letters are their only connection.
It appears that George's character is more complex than that of Esther, even with the fact that the former's life is more unsystematic than the latter's. George's charismatic character is no match for the discriminatory first century of the twentieth century, being too little for him to get employed. The character's power appears to be more than enough to help him through the harsh times he might experience in New York.
All across the first act, the audience is expected to encourage George's
George and Esther write to each other in spite of the fact that they are both illiterate. It is uncertain whether the words in their letters actually reflect their thinking or if they are just what their advisors want to express. George's letters virtually manage to shake the system Esther struggled to construct across her life, as she can no longer manage her aspirations and passion takes over. Esther's simple life finds color in George's letters, as they are filled with impressive stories and depictions of the Panama life.
Esther and George are perfect examples of African-Americans at the turn of the twentieth century. They naively believe that discrimination is synonymous to slavery and that both went away in 1865 (Dickerson). However, they slowly but surely discover the strong influence discrimination has on their lives. George's desire for the touch of a woman is equaled by Esther's excitement for the shelter she will find in her husband. They are both disappointed though, with George being less impressive than Esther pictured him and Esther's shyness being displeasing for George.
George's frustration soon takes over the couple's life especially because it is strongly contrasted by Esther's successful business. Even though African-Americans were awarded with legal benefits consequent to the abolishment of slavery, matters changed for the worse as regards the appreciation society showed them (Kramer, 2006). The fact that Esther is an independent woman is not very helpful toward her, as the masses have not changed their convictions a propos African-Americans (New York State Writers' Program, 1940, p. 393).
Her gender is yet another factor that prevents Esther from going through with her plans, as alongside of Mrs. Dickson, Mrs. Van Buren, and Mayme she is ignored by a community dominated by men. Esther becomes vulnerable because of her yearning to find love and exposes herself to a predictable risk.
The audience cannot possibly blame George for making decisions hastily and without analyzing the consequences his actions will have. His life experiences have made him indifferent to rationality and he hopes to find everything he hopes for in Esther and in New York.
During the time he worked at the Panama Canal death is a common sight and it is not surprising that George wants to leave this job, given that almost anyone would have acted similarly if he or she were to be in the same circumstances. New York does not raise to his expectations however and all of his dreams turn to dust along with his union with Esther.
In spite of her social status, Esther is not very different from George, as she also left the South in hope of finding a better living in New York. The social differences between them are however more than obvious, especially during their wedding, when Esther's impressive garments stand out against George's suit.
All the hope that the audience invests in Esther's fate is of no assistance to the woman. The predictable happens and it becomes clear that it is of no use for one to put all their hopes into one dream when all the odds are against it. Nonetheless, Esther does not actually seem disillusioned consequent to going through her relationship with George. Her dedication to continue on is somewhat similar to the one frequently employed by African-Americans when they found that freedom was bitterer than they initially perceived it (Kramer, 2006).
Esther does not hesitate to give George all her life savings when her husband asks her to do so. She acts even with the fact that she expects all the worse from this undertaking, certain that her cooperation will benefit George. Disaster soon strikes with George's departure and with all of Esther's money gone. It is almost as if Esther's principles did not give her a choice at the time when George asked her to give up her dreams.
The fact that Esther does not show uncertainty when she has to decide whether or not she wants to give her money to George can be considered a reference to the general condition of African-Americans at the beginning of the twentieth century. Because of their presumed freedom, black people believed that it was perfectly natural for them to yield to the promises they were presented with (New York State Writers' Program, 1940, p. 586).
Esther and George are not much different from their ancestors, as they constantly find that their dreams are defeated by a white-dominant society that is unwilling to accept them as equals (Dickerson). Esther's hope is not overthrown by the sorrowful incidents she comes across and she returns to her plan of launching a beauty parlor as soon as she finds that love is not exactly like she pictured it.
1. Dickerson, G. (2008). "African-American theater: a cultural companion." Polity.
2. Kramer, S. (2006). "Uplifting Our "Downtrodden Sisterhood": Victoria Earle Matthews and New York City's White Rose Mission, 1897-1907," The Journal of African-American History…
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