Examining Literary Catalysts in Two Short Novels

Topics: Novel, Fiction, Character Pages: 5 (1737 words) Published: October 5, 2008
Examining Literary Catalysts in Two Short Novels
For the longest time women have played the secondary roles in many novels written by men, which many times they were only used for effect on the story. However, the two novels that will be discussed in this paper show men in those secondary roles. In the book Brown Girl Brownstone, by Paule Marshall, we see the secondary character played by a man who by first appearance seems like a sloth. In some aspects he serves as a foil to the mother figure in the story. His death in the story serves as a turning point in the story, in which change occurs for the main character as well as other characters. In the other book that will be analyzed in this writing, titled Mama Day, a city bread young man finds himself at the center of many mysterious happenings, when he visits his girlfriend Cocoa’s hometown. His death in the novel is what ultimately allows for resolution at the end. What should one make of these events in the novels? If a universal view could be established it would be to say that these men act as literary catalysts for change for the stories in which they take part in. Although they may not be the main focus of the story they still play a significant role in how the plot unfolds, and without them many aspects of the stories would fall apart. Much like a catalyst in a chemical reaction these characters become part of the process to help change the plot. In hopes to understand why they are literary catalyst, comparing their parts in the plot to that of the definition of catalyst is necessary, building upon the basis of the definition and relating it to their situations and motivation or actions

In understanding to why these characters can be referred to as literary catalyst, the definition of catalyst must be defined. A catalyst is an item that causes a static object or concept to commence change. Not only does a catalyst perform this on static ideas, but for dynamic ideas as well. Many times in literature a character or characters are placed in stories as a literary catalyst to help the story to move on or change at a more rapid rate. This does not only hold bar to only the character, but for their actions, ideas, and sometimes even personalities, a degree of change can be made. Not limited just to characters, but an array of ideas, or objects could act as literary catalysts. Using the term would be sufficient for describing the characters, ideas, or objects that cause or speed on change in a plot. An experiment without a catalyst is an experiment that will not happen, much like in literature if characters, certain ideas, or object don’t exist to move the plot along it will remain static. So in many cases a literary catalyst would seem like a necessity in a novel, or other piece. So establishing that without a literary catalyst there is no way to advance a story seems plausible. In both novels we see each character play a key role in the story. Note that these characters may be static or dynamic, but at one point they change the plot, much like two chemicals may be unchanging. However upon contact with a catalyst they change whether for better or for worse something happens, which allows them to be different from what they were originally. Looking for the literary catalyst or catalysts in a story may be hard sometime, but for the two novels being discussed in this easy, it is actually quite easy to see why the characters represent literary catalysts. Looking further into their roles played during the course of the novels they are in we can see change taking place within each story. Their existence in the story or role they play would be necessary for the plot to change and like stated above, without them being there, change would have never occurred.

In Brown Girl, Brownstones, we see the main character Deighton is portrayed as lazy male father, who had no ambition to do anything in life except changing his mind about what he wants to do. “While all of the...
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