Gloria Naylor has endeavored to overcome the obstacles that accompany being an African-American woman writer. In her first three novels, The Women of Brewster Place, Linden Hills, and Mama Day, Naylor succeeds not only in blurring the boundary between ethnic writing and classical writing, but she makes it her goal to incorporate the lives of African-Americans into an art form with universal appeal. Gloria Naylor explains this struggle by stating, "The writers I had been taught to love were either male or white. And who was I to argue that Ellison, Austen, Dickens, the Brontes, Baldwin and Faulkner weren't masters? They were and are. But inside there was still the faintest whisper: Was there no one telling my story?" (qtd. in Erickson 232). Naylor, in her quest to make the western cannon more universal, readapts the classics. By the use of allusions to the themes and structures of Shakespeare and Dante in her first three novels, Naylor revises the classics to encompass African-Americans.
In The Women of Brewster Place, Naylor's allusions to Shakespeare's comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream reinterpret the bard to depict the plight of African-American women. Naylor incorporates themes of A Midsummer Night's Dream into the life of Cora Lee, a resident of the Brewster Place housing project. Cora Lee, whose existence is dominated by the responsibilities and demands of raising her children, escapes into the vacuousness of television soap operas. However, Cora Lee's lifestyle is temporarily modified when she is invited to attend a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. According to Peter Erickson, the play "...inspires in Cora Lee...
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...ills. New York: Penguin, 1985.
_____. Mama Day. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1993.
_____. The Women of Brewster Place. New York: Penguin, 1980.
Perry, Donna. Backtalk: Women Writers Speak Out. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers, 1993.
Saunders, James Robert. "The Ornamentation of Old Ideas: Naylor's First Three Novels." Hollins Critic 27 (1990). Rpt. in Gloria Naylor:
Critical Perspectives Past and Present. New York: Amistad, 1993.
Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Ed. Roma Gill. Oxford: Oxford, 1981.
_____. The Tempest. Eds. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York: Washington Square, 1994.
Ward, Catherine C. "Linden Hills: A Modern Inferno." Contemporary Literature 28 (1987), 67-81. Rpt. in Gloria Naylor:
Critical Perspectives Past and Present. New York: Amistad, 1993.
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