Gloria Naylor's The Women of Brewster Place touches on several pathological issues faced by black women within the black community. Contained within the pages of this novel, the reader might find criticism on issues ranging from the scrutiny and overly judgmental nature of the black community to issues of blatant homophobia. However, Naylor seems to place her most deliberate critical focus on black men and their detriment to black women within the black community. Her inclusion of black male characters that are predominantly violent, controlling, and emotionally withholding is of no accident, and it is these male characters that perpetuate the broken spirits of the black women that come to call Brewster Place home.
When the story of Mattie Michael is provided in the first chapter, the reader is also introduced to the characters of Butch, Sam Michael, and Basil. Butch, Basil's father, is admittedly non-committal, explaining to Mattie that "[he] just don't stay long enough to let the good times turn sour- (16). By extension, he is irresponsible, not stepping up to carry the burden of Mattie's pregnancy, which came as a result of their intimacy in the herb patch. In this case Mattie was spared a certain degree of disappointment because she was made aware of his attitudes towards women and commitment before she had laid down with him. The fact remains that Butch recognized no moral or emotional obligation to Mattie, even after she became pregnant by him.
Mattie's father, Sam Michael, was enraged upon learning of her condition. She chose not to reveal who the father was, and this only made matters worse. Sam felt that "she had chosen this man's side against him, and in his fury, he tried to stamp out what had hurt him the most and was now brazenly taunting him "her disobedience- (23). Sam Michael is hereby attempting to exercise his ownership and control of Mattie through violently beating her with a broomstick.