Short Story Cycles

Gloria Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place: Evolution of a Short Story Cycle

An analysis of The Women of Brewster Place highlighting the cycle's contribution to the narrative of community.

This analysis examines Gloria Naylor’s novel, The Women of Brewster Place, and its portrayal of the narrative of community. The text demonstrates the structural aesthetic and ethos of community narratives as identified by Sandra Zagarell. It explores the impact of community on the characters and readers, providing a valuable framework for scholars in genre studies, women’s writing, and narratology. Through skillful storytelling, Naylor links the stories of seven diverse female characters, showcasing the intersection of form and function in building a sense of community. The analysis recognizes the evolution of short story cycles in terms of representation and individualized protagonists. It concludes that the narrative of community, as depicted in Naylor’s work, serves as a beacon of hope in a fragmented world.

Of particular interest to researchers of the short story cycle is section about “Shifting, Polyfocal Centers”:

Here it is argued that Gloria Naylor (in The Women …. ) employs a polyfocal or multi-focal narrative structure, focusing on emotionally charged events involving individual women. The use of a consistent third-person limited omniscient narrator helps maintain narrative coherence despite shifting story focuses. While each story is autonomous, they are interconnected through organizing principles such as the presence of Mattie Michael and the setting of Brewster Place. Naylor’s narrative lens provides a unified perspective, allowing the individual stories to come together as a cohesive whole. The structure allows each woman to have her own story within the sequence, showcasing an evolution from traditional narratives of community. The exploration of shifting narrative centers and polyfocal storytelling creates harmony and unity among the women, fostering a shared sense of suffering and utilizing a common narrating lens.


Nicosia, Laura. (2007): “Gloria Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place: Evolution of a Short Story Cycle”

Link: Article page on ResearchNet.


This is an example of an entry that while not directly concerned with the form of short story cycles still makes a significant contribution to the discussion of the form. (It is also about a seminal short story cycle – The Women of Brewster Place.)


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