I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York yet when reading “Moon and the Mars” by Kia Corthron, there was so much history and major events going on in 1857 in New York City that I was completely unaware of. One of the main things I was shocked yet very intrigued to learn was the history of Seneca Village. I never knew that the area I so fondly know now as Central Park was once the home to many Black Americans before the Civil War. It is astonishing to think that there was once such a vibrant community of culture that existed there. The same goes for Five Points. Before reading “Moon and the Mars”, I never knew about the culture and the history that existed there. Five Points, although “mostly Irish”, was an intersection of many different unique communities that came together to form such a dynamic neighborhood, the neighborhood that made Theo who she was (Corthron 33). My lack of awareness of Five Points and Seneca Village is perhaps due to the fact that both of these places no longer exist in New York, but I found it so interesting to see how such an impactful community filled with history and culture was swept under the rug, especially for New Yorkers. I also found it shocking to see that at the time the novel is set, Harlem was described as a “White” town and the home of the “nativists” (Corthron 77, 85). Harlem is now a city filled with Black history and is renowned for its contributions to the Harlem Renaissance and African American culture. I had another similar reaction when reading Auntie Eunice’s letter to her husband Ambrose where she described the area of her new apartment in Greenwich Village as “little Africa” and “coon-town” (Corthron 111). Greenwich Village now is predominantly White. Reading “Moon and the Mars” highlighted for me the transformation of many of New York’s cities and communities over the years. The demographics of many cities and areas as I know them today are starkly different. The area of New York City that Theo grew up in, which was once filled with immigrants, is now predominantly white. 

Theo is the product of Black and Irish heritage. Her Irish side embodies Irish heritage, maintains their Irish accents and culture, discusses their connections to their homeland, and so much more. Theo’s Black side of her family also often maintains their culture despite the struggles of the immigrant experience that they face. They celebrate things like Pinkster and continue to practice the A.M.E. religion. Now, many of those immigrant communities have moved to areas like Brooklyn, where I am from. Today, Brooklyn is the center for the immigrant experience mixed with Caribbean, African, Asian, Jewish, Italian, Irish, and Black cultures. While these communities are bolstering with authenticity, culture, history, and so much more, similar to what goes on with Seneca Falls and Five Points in the novel, the areas I call home are also being subject to gentrification. Every time I go back home whether that be for Winter Break or for the Summer, I am shocked to see how much my community has changed. Many of the places and small towns that clearly exhibited Brooklyn’s diversity and culture of the immigrant experience are now taken over by White communities. The Caribbean markets have now become apartment buildings for many newcomers moving to New York for the city experience. Many Black people, other people of color, and marginalized communities are being pushed out of their homes much like how Auntie Eunice and Mr. O’Kelleher are forced to leave their homes behind in Seneca Falls. In that regard, I was able to resonate with Auntie Eunice when she communicated her sadness in having to move her home. Seeing how much my hometown changes due to wealthier white people taking over makes me wonder how much my community will change in the next 20 years.

Possession and Control

One of the main events of Book Two in Richard Wright’s Native Son is Bigger tragically killing Mary on his first night of work at the Daltons. Throughout the book, we as readers get a great insight into what is going on in Bigger’s head, how he truly feels about killing Mary, and how he feels about the consequences he may face in the world as a result of that. One of the main themes that ran through Bigger’s thoughts, that I noticed, was an aspect of control or possession that Bigger felt after he killed Mary which he had not really expressed or felt prior. Before Bigger killed Mary, he often communicated that he did not have much control in his world, control over his identity as a Black man, control over his ability to get a job and succeed, control over the situation when Mary and Jan were in the car with him, and more. However, after killing Mary, Bigger makes a huge change. He expressed how suffocating Mary, throwing her in the furnace, and knowing all of this “was something that was all his own, and it was the first time in his life he had had anything that others could not take from him” (Wright 105). It was very interesting, but more importantly concerning to see how Bigger felt better knowing that he had something of that magnitude to hold over people. He felt as though the murder “had created a new life for himself” and that he finally had possession over something of great importance to many people (Wright 105).

Bigger never really had possession or control over something like this or any property that was exclusively for him before, except for the knowledge and truth about Mary. Having that control over others gave Bigger a lot of confidence in himself and he became fearless. This is all shown for example when Bigger sees Peggy with the letter, when he tells Mr. Dalton and Britten his story about what happened that night, and even when the men from the news question Bigger at the Dalton’s home. Bigger felt as though he is this big mastermind behind the truth about Mary and finally has control over these people who were once so intimidating him. Having control over them with his knowledge makes Bigger feel equal to them which makes him feel better about himself. Because Bigger knew the truth, he was able to control the narrative and conceal the truth about Mary being “kidnapped”. He no longer feared the white people in the same way he once did and even began acting out more fearlessly than he previously did. He raped and murdered Bessie, pointed his gun at Jan, and more; all things that he probably would not have done if it were not for the “confidence” tragically killing Mary gave him.

When reading this on a surface level, Bigger’s newly acquired confidence, which is only achieved as a result of him killing Mary, seems quite chilling and portrays Bigger in an even more negative manner. However, when looking at it more in depth from a different perspective, I thought that it was sad that Bigger even had to do such a thing for him to feel worthy of attention or to feel something in the world. Although Bigger was indeed responsible for his own actions, I can’t help but wonder how much society and the circumstances surrounding Bigger influenced his fate.