Br'er cotton by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm is a thought-provoking play that focuses on justice, equality and racism. The play is an excellent performance and brilliant writing that reflects the miserable, torn and disaffected present coupled with complicated issues of racism and racial identity. Terrance's ease with dialogue creates believable familial moments, never falling over into exposition or polemic. Chisholm describes how innocent black men and women become murdered in racially motivated attacks (Chisholm 6). These injustices and the never-ending tragedy of Black men gunned down or abused in hypothetical situations consume Ruffrino, a 14-year-old black teenager who grows up in Virginia (Chisholm 11). He is enraged and struggles to make sense of his position in an impoverished society. His rage on reality grows and the world around him sinks as he tries to prove by any means necessary that Black Lives Matter. The play raises tough questions in our contemporary society since America is going through what U.S. News calls "a big race problem." Therefore, the play does not shy away from absurdity and ironies of life. This paper critically analyzes the play Br'er cotton by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm by looking at justice, equality and racism, and focusing on how black lives matter.
The setting of the play occurs at Lynchburg, an improvised neighborhood and a former site of thriving cotton mill (Chisholm 3). The main antagonist in the play is Ruffrino who finds himself at logger's heads with his single mother, racist world, and tradition-bound granddad. His anger towards reality grows on a daily basis, and he becomes fed up seeing the white cops get off with the killing of the young blacks. His rage towards facts increases and he moves further away from his family and his world sinks around him (Chisholm 8). He is ready to act, fight back or respond with violence if necessary as his anger is visceral. More jaded and disillusioned, his mother and grandfather fear for him, articulating their points of view beautifully, highlighting the complexity beyond a teenager's black-and-white certainty. Ruffrino with a blazing intensity spits out his words with a throaty snarl. He expresses teenage rage well by showing the generational divide that most young people experience when involving politics with the relatives (Chisholm 11).
His mother, Nadine focuses on his son who would soon end up like his father, Mathew who was imprisoned for fifty years (Chisholm 3). This condemned her to a life of doing housework for white people just like every woman had done in her generation ever since her great-grandmother. His mother loves her son and has hopes in him despite living somewhere between being aware scary of what could be the fate of her son. She is fearful, brave, persistence, lovely and got a mixture of dreams. His father is more sympathetic to Ruffrino plight than her. Railing against an internet troll, Ruffrino tells his friend, "Loser kids like him grow and kill black kids like us. And they get away with it. I wish I could just crack his head open and find the thing in his brain that makes him racist and pulverize it (Chisholm 23) " His anger and fear came to his head when a race riot broke out in Charlottesville, and his mother befriends a white policeman for whom she works as a maid. The encounter between his worn-out mother and a sympathetic white police officer tingle with sharp humor and affection (Chisholm 18). The duo's spectacularly awkward hug was both hopeful and absurd. Although it is a family affair the power lies in duo's intimacy; in exploring how politics affect the domestic and how our closest relationships shape our interactions with the world beyond them. In one of the most effective scenes between Ruffrino and his grandfather, Matthew addresses each member of the family using their first names creating another layer of tension and meaningful questions on whether a revolution should first begin at home, by treating each other with respect (Chisholm 16). It further brings in the weight of parental expectation, how people protect themselves from fear of failure with low ambition, the shifting nature of identity across generations, and the possibilities and problems of friendship across racial and social divides.
The most unexpected thing about the book is its humor. It is from the fractures in these relationships that the humor, sadness, and depression of facing the world as it is and cruising the desire to make it better reach out to punch the readers in the guts. The fact that the readers find the play amusing with the weight of such heavy themes is surprising. A lot of the supporting characters have comedic value. For example, Ruffrino's rotund and verbose grandfather who wanders the house with his eyes closed in preparation for losing his sight (Chisholm 18). Then there is the unnamed police officer who is hapless, but well-meaning interactions with Ruffrino's mother Nadine provide the book most touching comedy. Another part of the play that is amusing is when Nadine cowers in fear for her life on first seeing Campbell's police officer; a heart-breaking moment somehow provokes titters (Chisholm 21).
There is a magical realist element in the play resourced to accurately administer Chisholm's arrogance the teenager house sinking into the ground and a cotton field growing in the kitchen. A moonlit vision of the antebellum south continually floats to the surface of present-day Virginia. Chisholm makes some sophisticated points about growing up with the possibility of being killed for the color of your skin. Ruffrino's blanket hatred of white people tempered with a realization that a number of the characters socially isolated for different reasons, without papering over the unique torment of finding your feet as a young black man (Chisholm 18). It is a shame that Chisholm's poetic vision of the present sinking into the traumatic past cannot replicate.
From developing the theme 'Blacks Lives Matter,' the play get in the way of the strong message that the writer attempts to pass across. The play seems to have little relevance other than to spice up the play. The myth, history and the present explore racism in America making a great sense of compact with ease as it delivers a heart-wrenching, intimate glance into one black family's struggle to navigate national tragedy in these troubled times. The book responds to real time and to use what's happening in our world to fuel our art with more urgency and a more significant commitment to the discussion. This play is bold and as well as feeling impressively fast-paced as a young teen passionate, exciting and courageous is full of potential, but all leads him to an upsetting fate. He is contented to live in the shadows of paradise ready to save the world, wake up the zombies and prove that black lives matter. The play purposes of magical realism are to demonstrate that our real life is not just what we think and see. Different people got different opinions on many things that happen around, and inside us, that tends to affect us. The realism of Brer cotton allows a form of expression that is hidden in us. It profoundly shows how we can navigate our unique experience. From the play, each generation ought to do a little better than the other that came before. What strikes about this play that's so moving is the generational endurance. Each generation gets represented in this play, and that endurance falls on all of those factors. The discourse was diverse, with participants varying in age and race. The difference opens up the floor for an assortment of personal stories providing context to how racism shapes over time.
Overall, Br'er cotton is a very substantial book, relevant and deeply moving. When young, black teenage men are shot and killed by white police officers, it triggers extraordinarily pressing social commentary about racial tension in communities. A lot of the past is coming up through the play. This surpassed the expectations as the story takes some surprising turns: Ruffrino finds solace in the murkier corners of online gaming, and his exhausted mother Nadine draws comfort from a benign police officer. Although Chisholm's writing at times risks seeming disjointed, it's astute about current battles around race, identity and the thunderous burden of history, the last of which causes the stage to tremble. Visual bold staging relishes the ambitious book fiery dialogue, surging metaphors and questions about progress. The set inscribed with the many names of black Americans killed by the police, and the past seeps into every exchange with the cotton picked by the family's slave forebears a recurring image. This play was written with a source of humor. The author makes some sophisticated points about growing up with the possibility of being killed for the color of your skin is black. Ruffrino's hatred of white people tempered with a realization that a number of the characters socially ostracized for different reasons, without papering over the unique torment of finding your feet as a young black man. Complex histories, humanity and white-hot anger combine in an excellent poetic domestic script. The script is tailored to be sensitive to and celebrating a diverse range of audiences. There is so much going on that the central theme whether violence is the answer feels overlooked and under-explored.
Chisholm, Tearrance Arvelle. Br'er Cotton. Diss. Catholic University of America, 2016.
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