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Free Essays – Stylistic Elements of There Are No Children Here Children

Stylistic Elements of There Are No Children Here In Kotlowitz’s description of the harsh realities of the Chicago projects, three stylistic elements stand out: his precise narration, his bluntness, and his questionable objectivity. These three elements blend to form a unique style that is particularly well-suited for There Are No Children Here. If there is one thing on which critics agree when discussing this book, it is that Kotlowitz is a brilliant narrator. He has a keen eye for the daily particulars of this dangerous neighborhood. Adding to this strength is the fact that he spent years in one particular Chicago project, earning the trust of his informants. What ensues is a story that is told masterfully. Kotlowitz conveys not only the hardships that Lafeyette and Pharaoh face, but the effect of those hardships on the boys, as well. For example, after the two children dive under cover during a drive-by shooting, both are visibly affected. The younger brother, Pharaoh, laments, “I worry about dying, dying at a young age.” The older of the two, Lafeyette, tells his mother, “Mama, I’m real tired. Anytime I go outside, I ain’t guaranteed to come back” (Kotlowitz 157). These two direct quotes increase the impact of the passage infinitely. Kotlowitz’s narrative technique is extremely effective in giving the reader deeply affecting portraits of the two brothers (Siler 14). It is Kotlowitz’s ability to recognize the details that are essential that makes his narration brilliant and memorable. Kotlowitz’s effectiveness as a narrator is strengthened by his bluntness. For example, when dealing with the clean-up of the basement, Kotlowitz spares no details in his description: “Some Chicago Housing Authority employees wearing moon suits and gas masks clean the basements at Henry Horner, removing the animal carcasses and rusted appliances” (Kotlowitz 303). None of the grim details are edited. Furthermore, during the funeral of a friend of one of the boys, Kotlowitz goes to great lengths to describe the body: “. . .[his] head wound had been stuffed with cotton and sutured to prevent leakage. . .” (Kotlowitz 205). The grim details have an unsettling effect on the reader, bringing the horror to life. Kotlowitz’s description makes vivid the terrors of growing up in the projects (Siler 12). Kotlowitz’s straightforwardness avoids preachy declarations in favor of a simple, almost childlike tone. Kotlowitz does not sanitize the language and culture of the Horner projects (Washington 12). Children call Horner the “graveyard.” The children’s mother’s shopping list includes “hair grease.” This straightforward account brings the projects to life. One aspect of Kotlowitz’s style can be looked at in two different lights: his questionable objectivity. The author openly discusses his attachment to the family, mentioning that he has even helped them financially. He also reiterates throughout the book his deep affection for the two children. Many critics argue that this absence of objectivity clouds Kotlowitz’s ability to look at the subject in a neutral, journalistic fashion. They wonder how the author’s deep personal commitment can be replicated into vast public sympathy for the projects (Edsall 36). However, others argue that the author’s affection is simply a testimony of his compassion for the two boys. At worst, they maintain, Kotlowitz could be faulted for abandoning journalistic objectivity. But at least, unlike most of the world outside the projects, he hasn’t abandoned the boys (Siler 14). The strengths of Kotlowitz’s style make There Are No Children Here a memorable work of nonfiction about contemporary American life. He has given America an extraordinary glimpse into the lives of the families confined to the projects.

A Reason to Hope in There Are No Children Here

There Are No Children Here – A Reason to Hope

The West side of Chicago, Harlem, Watts, Roxbury, and Detroit. What do all of these areas have in common? These areas, along with many others have become mine fields for the explosive issues of race, values, and community responsibility, led by the plight of the urban underclass. Issues such as violent crime, social separation, welfare dependence, drug wars, and unemployment all play a major role in the plight of American inner-city life. Alex Kotlowitz’s book: There Are No Children Here, confronts America’s devastated urban life; a most painful issue in America. Kotlowitz traces the lives of two black boys; 10 year old LaFayette, and 7 year old Pharoah, as they struggle to beat the odds growing up in one of Chicago’s worst housing projects. Their family includes a welfare dependent mother, an alcholic-drug using father, an older sister, an older brother, and younger triplets. Kotlowoitz describes the horrors of an ill-maintained housing project completely taken over by gangs, where murders and shootings are an everyday thing. Kotlowitz does a fine job at portraying ghetto life; those who are outside the American dream. He succeeds at putting a face on th people trapped inside the housing projects with virtually no hope of escape. One can truly feel a sense of great loss for the family, and a great deal of hope for the two young boys. You can truly feel yourself hoping that things will work out for them, and you can really feel like you know these young men on a personal basis. Kotlowotz spent a great deal of time with the boys so he could portray the world from the eyes of a child growing up in the ghetto, and he does an amazing job.

All through their lives Pharoah and LaFayette are surrounded by violence and poverty. Their neighborhood had no banks, no public libraries no movie theatres, no skating rinks or bowling allies. Drug abuse was so rampant that the drug lords literally kept shop in an abondoned building in the progjects, and shooting was everywhere. Also, there were no drug rehabilitation programs or centers to help combat the problem. Police feared going into the ghetto out of a fear for their own safety. The book follows Pharoah and LaFayette over a two year period in which they struggle with school, attempt to resist the lure of gangs, mourn the death of close friends, and still find the courage to search for a quiet inner peace, that most people take for granted.

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