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Immigrating is one of the biggest changes that an individual may face in life. Moving to a new country and adapting to a different environment is complicated and challenging. Brother by David Chariandy is a Canadian novel about the hardships of growing up in a poor immigrant neighbourhood. David Chariandy takes the readers inside the lives of Michael and Francis who are the sons of Trinidadian immigrants.
Their mother works multiple shifts to support their family since their father has abandoned them.
The indignities of being a poor child of immigrants in Brother portrays the careless prejudices and low expectations that confront Michael and Francis consequently, making them appear as perpetual outsiders due to their economic and ethnic status. The challenges immigrants face are perceived when Michael and Francis experience racial discrimination, financial difficulties and social isolation.
To begin with, Michael and Francis experience racism on a regular basis. Firstly, the brothers are forced to play along each time they are stopped and searched by the police.
This is proven when Michael explains, “We had been stopped by the cops before.
There was a routine to it all: we knew that if you carefully played along you’d eventually be released, if not with your dignity, then at least with your skin” (Chariandy, 29). This quote proves that the police officers abuse their authority in the black community, looking upon all black men as potential suspects and treating them as such. Secondly, Michael and Francis are seen only as thieves and are misconceived by others due to their race.
In the passage, Michael says, “A women stepped into the shelter. She was nicely dressed, despite the weather, and she was carrying shopping bags· Francis was taking two spaces on the bench, and he moved so she could sit, but she looked deliberately away· She left walking down the street, maybe to the next shelter, her heels clicking on the sidewalk” (120).
The people surrounding Michael and Francis look at them from a negative perspective and tend to avoid them when they find themselves in close quarters with them. Therefore, Michael and Francis battle against the careless prejudices that confront them as young men of black ancestry because they are mistreated by the police and are seen only as criminals.
Furthermore, the family’s acute poverty is conveyed well throughout the novel. Firstly, their hard-working mother desperately wants a better life for her sons, working tirelessly to scrape together a living. In the reading, Michael’s aunt mentions,”‘Sometimes I had even been jealous of my older sister, and the perfect life that she alone had found by going away.
‘ Mother stayed quiet· She did not admit that she had not had the time or money to complete her studies to become a nurse. She did not hint at the debt or struggle or the aches she often felt” (146). Their mother’s family complain about how easy life in Canada must be when in reality, it is quite the opposite. Their mother works herself to the bone, taking buses for hours each day in an attempt to take advantage of another opportunity.
Secondly, their mother pretends she is not hungry in order for her boys to have enough to eat. This is shown when Michael states, “She quickly reheated and served what remained of yesterday’s lentil stew, and when Francis said, ‘You’re hardly leaving any for yourself,’ she claimed she wasn’t hungry” (119).
This situation strongly depicts the vulnerabilities of the powerless and the challenges their family must overcome being poor immigrants. Thus, the shortage of income and struggle for adequate food portrays the harsh realities of life as poor immigrants.
Moreover, the novel brings a sense of alienation towards Michael and his family. Firstly, the family visit a shopping mall and are made to feel unwelcome. This is proven when Michael says, “As we moved from store to store, the clerks seemed especially attentive to us. Mother hadn’t changed out of her uniform, and her sneakers sounded her approach on the marble floors with a funny squeaking sound” (151).
Due to her unfortunate circumstances, she has to casually explain that she is “just window shopping” to over attentive salespeople. Secondly, the boys’ economic and ethnic status contribute to their slow realization that they can never fully feel a part of the community that they have grown up in. In the text, Michael explains, “One morning, I peered with Francis into a newspaper box to read a headline about the latest terror and caught in the glass the reflection of our own faces” (16).
This is such a striking moment as it is showing a news report about street violence and while they are watching they can see their reflections superimposed over the screen. This quote gives a powerful sense of how they are trapped in a community troubled by poverty and gang wars. Hence, their family is socially isolated in their community because they are made to feel excluded when they are seen in public and are surrounded by violence which they try their best to stay away from.
To conclude, Brother by David Chariandy is an honest depiction of the negative factors of immigration, including experiences of inequality, high levels of poverty that force families to live in poor neighbourhoods and a sense of isolation.
Michael and Francis experience racism on a regular basis because they are mistreated by the police and are seen only as criminals. Their family lives in poverty as they receive low income and inadequate food. They are also socially isolated because they are made to feel unwelcome and are trapped in a community troubled by violence.
Immigrating to a new country may seem fun and solves many problems that the immigrant has faced in other countries, however starting a new life is difficult. How can one overcome the challenges facing immigrants?
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