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David Chariandy Brother
- Describe the opening scene of the novel. What do we learn about the first-person narrator just from this scene? And his brother? In what ways does the setting in this scene—the hydro pole—contribute to the novel – as you start reading the novel, and after you have finished the novel? What symbolism in this section reverberates throughout the entire work?
- The narrator characterizes both his mother and brother throughout the novel. Different scenes which reveal different aspects of their personalities; different time periods reveal their internal and external changes. Choose one of these characters (Francis or mother), and compare how they are characterized in two to three different scenes or time periods. What can one learn from this comparison? What qualities does Michael reveal about himself in terms of these characterizations? Alternatively, compare the relationship between Michael and his mother to the relationship between Francis and his mother.
- Michael states that “Memory’s the muscle sting of now” (Chariandy 1). Analyse how this statement rings true in terms of the representation of time in the novel. How is it structured in terms of time? How many time frames are there, and how would you categorize them? How are transitions achieved between continuous flashbacks and the present? Suggestion: focus on a “pairing” of past and present (e.g, Mother’s accident, starts on p. 135 in Chapter 5, and the visit to Trinidad, Chapter 6, starts on p. 147); analyse how the passage of time reinforces the novel’s theme(s).
- Analyse several passages in which the narrator describes the different areas of his neighborhood (The Park, Rouge Valley, Heritage Value convenience store, the library, Desirea’s, etc.). What social and economic struggles are revealed through the depiction of these narrative spaces? How do they portray specific aspects in relation to issues of poverty and racism experienced in Canada? What do they say about immigrant and/or low income families who are struggling to live in Canada?
- Key scenes in this novel are set in the Rouge Valley, which runs through the city of Scarborough. Analyse the symbolism in at least two of these passages which describe the Rouge Valley (e.g, p. 18, p. 147). What is Michael’s relationship to the Valley? To nature? His mother’s? What statements does the novel make on one’s loss of connection to nature as a result of urban living? How could this problem be addressed in today’s world?
- Describe Michael’s relationship to Aisha. What is her role in the novel? What does Michael assume about Aisha? What is the significance of her father’s death in the novel? Alternatively, examine Michael’s response to the memorial that Aisha holds for Francis. What troubles him about this get-together? Why does he think “it won’t work” (p. 65)? Following his mother’s accident, why does Michael both blame and need Aisha at the same time, and for what (e.g., see p. 137, p. 175)?
- Many aspects of grief and grieving are portrayed in the novel; as Michael puts it, “There are many ways a person can flee” (p. 171). How does Michael’s experience of grief influence the way he structures and narrates his story? What do you learn about his relationship with Francis based on the way he grieves? Alternatively, focus on how Michael represents his mother’s grief – what can you tell about his mother based on his representation? How does it compare to that of Aisha’s (e.g., see p. 65)?
- Choose three scenes from the novel which foreground the nature and effects of racism observed and/or experienced by Francis and Michael or other characters, including secondary characters (e.g., Anton, Goose) in the novel. Why does the narrator include his memory of the robbery and the mall incident (starts on p. 149-154) in the novel? How does it act as a foreshadowing and thematic device? Examine how your own understanding of racism in Canada was affirmed or altered in your reading of the novel.
- What are some events that precede and contextualise Francis’s death? Choose three events that reveal different aspects of Francis’ personality, coping mechanisms and social situation (e.g., beating up Scatter, pp. 121-23; the audition, pp. 125-134; the actual shooting, pp. 155-159)? Analyse the use of narrative perspective in these scenes; what do these techniques reveal about social justice, intersectionality, and what Francis has to deal with on a daily basis?
- Francis’s homosexuality is represented a subtext in the novel. Why do you suppose Chariandy represents it this way? When, how and why does Michael reveal it in his narration? Based on Chariandy’s portrayal of masculinity and hypermasculinity analyse two to three passages of the novel that reveals what it means to be black, gay, and poor in Canada.
- At the Denman Readers & Writers’ Festival in 2019, Chariandy said that he portrayed “two masculinities” in Brother: one, a posture of hardening and repression, and the other, “out-of-character moments” of love and tenderness. In his view, characters are a “mystery” in that the apparent character contrasts with the real character. Choose one or two masculine characters, and examine this contrast in detail. What does your examination reveal about the construction of masculinity in the twenty-first century in Canada?
- Use the space below to brainstorm your own questions and queries. Note questions that suggest topics for inquiry, or that suggest a shared interest.