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Space and Identity

Space and Identity Bacilio Alvarado ENGL-108: Composition with Lab Professor Monaghan January 17, 2014

Space and Identity

The social setting in which someone lives can affect that persons life. How can the environment mark someones life? Violence, drugs or traumatic experiences can alter the mentality of anyone. Danticats life took a dramatic turn when the fire in apartment 6E killed the two boys of the African-American mother, making her see the reality of the cruel world.

Home is the habitation where someone can unwind and forget about all their problems. A house is a place where someone lives, but lacks happiness and love from other people. Some people are not aware of their surroundings until something unexpected occurs. Danticat writes about how she lived in a cul-de-sac in Brooklyn and beneath her six-story brick building there was a subway station which rattled the D, M, and Q trains every fifteen minutes or so. The hot water and heat were not always working in her apartment, and there was graffiti on most of the walls of the neighborhood, so this space is informant of how Danticat and her family were in a troubled area with little income. Although there were hills of trash piled up outside, and though the elevator was not present most of the time when they opened the door, Danticat never dreamed of leaving Westbury Court until the year of the fire. Danticat spends most of her time with her three brothers after school, she watches General Hospital with her youngest brother Karl while here two other brothers Kelly and Andre go in the back bedroom to watch cartoons. Based on Danticats description of the family in apartment 6E, one can say that the lower class dominates her neighborhood. Her neighbors consisted of an African-American mother with two sons, they can be categorized in the lower class because there was no mention of a father of the boys and the mother had no one to look after her children while she stepped out to buy groceries. After the

Space and Identity

fire Danticat started to notice a lot more criminal activities take place, such as someone coming into her apartment and stealing her fathers expensive camera. The cabdriver who lived in apartment 6J was killed in Manhattan; judging by all the crime, Danticats neighborhood consisted of poor working class individuals trying to make a living day by day. The role of women in Danticats neighborhood seems to be that of the average American woman, meaning the mother could be working a part-time job and then doing household chores such as looking after the children and running errands. Danticats mother would have her take watch over her brothers while she was away, but after the fire her mother had the, stay with a family on the second floor. The men of her neighborhood were trying to make a living; by either working, stealing, or immigrating to the U.S. for a better life. We learn about the harsh conditions in which the Danticats live through the story such as when Danticat reveals that a Nigerian immigrant was shot and killed in front of the building across the street. Even though the space in which Danticat grew up in was very delinquent and violent, she saw Westbury Court to be her magical home because that was all she knew; but her mind was wrapped up in General Hospital because it was an escape from her tough reality. Before the fire everything seemed okay and normal to her, but after the fire she was more alert of her surroundings by listening keenly for her new tenants in case something awful would happen. Space or location, is important in our lives because ultimately that is what shapes us and influences us the most. The space in which Danticat was surrounded by did not really damage her, but definitely opened up her eyes to the real world she is living in and is more alert of her brothers and new neighbors. She was in denial about her neighborhood being fierce that she viewed her home as an elevated castle, and even mentioned an urban yellow brick road where hopscotch squares dotted the sidewalk next to burned-out, abandoned cars.

Space and Identity

At times, space can affect us emotionally, mentally and physically; we all deal with different situations depending on where we grew up and how we reacted to our surroundings. I spent my toddler years in a neighborhood where robberies, shootings, fights and acts of violence were occurring on a regular basis. My life was always surrounded by alcohol, I witnessed people get arrested, drinking and driving, and domestic violence at a very young age. Normally this would have a negative impact on a childs life but I chose not to let it affect me, even though my environment was full of negativity. I did not want to follow that path and be an undesirable example for my younger siblings or other people. Ultimately, people do not realize how well or bad they have it until something drastic transpires. For Danticat, the fire made her grasp the responsibility of becoming attentive of her brothers and her neighbors. Had this fire not happened, might Danticat have been cognizant of her brothers and be prepared for this type of disaster? Tragedies open the eyes of people who are oblivious of their atmosphere.