Linden Hills

Erasing the Color, Wiping Out the Humanity

In Gloria Naylor’s Linden Hills, the vignette of Ruth and Norman’s lives on Wayne Avenue serves as a stark contrast to the tales of the inhabitants dwelling in the adjacent, more affluent neighborhood of Linden Hills. Naylor uses this couple to illustrate that, despite their crippling poverty, Ruth and Norman comprise one of the few families in the book who have real goals and dreams.

At first glance, the Anderson couple seems far from impressive; upon the reader’s first sighting of her, Ruth is described as “a young woman pressed against [Norman’s] arm, her body turned slightly in toward his for warmth because the thin beige coat afforded her very little” (31). We immediately realize that this is not a financially well-off family. Later on this point is underscored when we witness the couple entertaining Willie and Lester — rare guests — using their three prized Styrofoam cups, plastic spoons, and paper napkins. Ruth and Norman proceed through an almost laughable ceremony of setting the inexpensive utensils and pouring the coffee. Content with what they have, the couple looks “around their apartment as if the warm and cool air that filled up the empty rooms were all that mattered” (33).

Yet, what these two people lack in...

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