The Novel "Brown Girl in the Ring" was authored by Nalo Hopkinson with Warner Aspect being the publishers. The novel is characterized by the themes of folklore as well as the magical realism of life. It played a major role in catapulting her to one of the great authors of science fiction stories in the world. She has been feted with numerous awards for her works including 1999's best-emerging writer. Hopkinson was born in Jamaica and lived in the United States among other places in the world. The setting of this novel is in the city of Toronto and its suburbs. I think her emphasis on the themes of folklore and magical realism has contributed to its excellence because it addresses matters in the real world.
Previous riots in the city of Toronto have led to widespread poverty as well as continuing violence and inadequate shelter. The elite families of have moved away from the violence and relocated to the better environs while the children of the poor have been abandoned and to suffer in the streets of Toronto in search of a means of livelihood (Hopkinson 9). At this moment in time, criminal gangs have taken over the operations of the slums; led by their leader Rudy Sheldon. Disappearance and cold murder of people have become the norm hence some people have been forced to form support groups to be able to survive by providing basic necessities for each other. In my opinion, Hopkinson excelled with her description of the dire situation the city was going through. Her description creates the feeling of being part of the action on the ground. The scenarios being described are a direct reflection of the problems facing many cities around the world today.
After understanding her description she goes ahead to introduce Ti-Jeanne. Hopkinson uses her as the heroine in her novel, then goes further to show us the contrast in the life outside the city of Toronto. Gros-Jeanne, Ti-Jeanne's grandmother, is shelled by life's problems from all angles, but the issue of survival is not one of them. For instance, having given birth to her first child as a single parent, Ti-Jeanne relocates back into her grandmother's house to tend to the child (Hopkinson 21). Tony who is the child's father is an addict and part of the gang. I understand that Hopkinson is trying to address a common problem in the modern day where girls move back into their parents' houses after having a baby with an irresponsible partner.
The themes of folklore and magical realism are also significantly addressed in the novel. Gros-Jeanne is an avid believer in the power of medicine and spiritualism (Hopkinson 61). On occasions, images of death appear to her and her granddaughter becomes frightened and unsettled with such happenings. While she showers her grandmother with so much love, she has failed to understand why Gros-Jeanne has placed so much importance on the power of her magic. I saw that Gros-Jeanne made attempts to introduce her family members to her culture but her efforts bore no fruits. They pushed her away every single time every time she made such attempts. I believe this is the norm in the modern world because the younger generation has grown weary of spiritual and magical practices. The culture is dying with the older generation.
After becoming a father, Tony is making attempts to redeem himself and live a normal life. However, his destiny is clearly against this decision. Rudy calls upon him to commit a murderous act amidst threats to his own life if he does not perform as instructed (Hopkinson 143). I understand that one of the elites in the City needed a heart that would potentially save his life. However, the most interesting scenario occurs when Tony makes a suicidal mistake by involving Gros-Jeanne and Ti-Jeanne in his 'business.' I believe that on such grave matters, family members ought to be left out because any mistake can be fatal.
The theme of magical realism is advanced further in the story when Tony approaches Gros-Jeanne for help. In a bid to remove her lover from the shackles of Rudy, Ti-Jeanne aids in the performance of the magic alongside her grandmother (Hopkinson 195). In doing so she allows the spirit of her father to link with her soul. When their plans fail to materialize, Tony's poor decision making compels Ti-Jeanne to make the last important decision to redeem herself as well as the city from the shackles of the Rudy. I feel that Ti-Jeanne showed how strong and brave she is by the amount of sacrifice she made for the people she loved. Her selfless acts were helpful to not only her family but the people around her who were leading miserable lives because of the havoc created by Rudy's gang. There is growth in her character throughout the story as evidenced by her acceptance of culture and ancestry. In showing a positive attitude towards the magic of her grandmother at the end, she is empowered to transcend the difficulties of life and end misery in her neighborhood. Clearly, the end of the story showed so much hope for Ti-Jeanne and the people of Toronto.
Overall, I feel the themes of folklore and magical realism have been superbly advanced in the novel. Ti-Jeanne was averse to the spiritualism of her grandmother despite the close bond that they shared. However, her love for Tony forces her to embrace magic. Embracing her culture goes a long way in saving the people she loves and the city at large. Overall, I believe that Hopkinson deserves praise for her effort in this novel.
Hopkinson, Nalo. Brown girl in the ring. Hachette UK, 2001.
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