Evolution of One’s self

Motherless Brooklyn was an amazing book, that deserves to be properly portrayed in its cinematic production. The main essential aspect that we should really try to push as much forward in this movie is the character of Lionel itself. There are many reasons why this should be done in such manner, which I will discuss thoroughly. Not only should we be focused on the main character’s issues and problems, but we should also try to put an emphasis on the development of his person and the evolution he undergoes as the story goes on. For me, that was the aspect of the novel that kept me reading; not the story itself, but rather the growth of Lionel’s person throughout every obstacle he has to undergo.

  1. Lionel is depicted as being this very feeble person that lets everyone walk all over him basically, in the beginning of the novel. You feel from the very start that he is trying to belong within the Minna Men, but that he will always be treated in a different way due to his Tourette’s. The Minna Men are not necessarily mean to me either, but they are not gentile with voicing their opinions of Lionel and the irritability his disease causes them.
  • “Minna and I had been in a joke-telling contest since I was thirteen years old, primarily because he liked to see me try to get through without ticcing. It was rare that I could” (25)
  • “Its an itch at first. Inconsequential. But that itch is soon a torrent behind a staining dam. Noah’s flood. That itch is my whole life.” (2)
  • “tics and obsessions kept the other Minna Men amused, but also wore them out” (5)
  1. He also speaks about how he used to be before he met Minna, which should be highlighted as well in his transformation process. Minna’s relationship with Lionel is what saved him and it speaks to Lionel’s character; he needs a crutch to hold onto and needs a mentor to admirer, therefore it shows he is a follower. Before meeting Minna, he was even more fragile than he was at the beginning of the book, Minna helped him, and we should put an emphasis on the fact that although he is not that strong as a person, he was much worse before.
  • “ (…) the Minna brothers are a part of me deep in my grain, deeper than mere behavior, deeper even in regret, Frank because he gave me my life and Gerard because , though I hardly knew him , I took his away “(Lethem , 310)
  1. Another aspect that we should relate to his relationship with Minna, is that Minna was sort of mother to him, which he never had before. Minna is the one that helps him grow as a person, even after his death. He is the one that informs him about his condition; making him feel less like an outcast and like he actually belonged to a certain group of people, even if it is very small. Even after he dies, he keeps influencing Lionel into growing as his own person. He plays a huge role in the main character’s evolution.
  • “Instead I rang the doorbell. No answer. Then four more times, for a total of five, and I stopped, startled by a sense of completeness.” (Lethem 135).
  1. A moment that I wish to highlight in the novel is the morning after Minna’s death when Lionel wakes up. He has a sort of awakening; I would even call it a rebirth. He does not seem like he does not care about this loss, but rather that he cares so deeply that he will not let it affect him to much so that he can take over Minna’s role and assure his legacy. He also finds this new strength, which I feel is born from the need to find vengeance for his mentor’s murder. This is an important passage in the book since it reflects the process in which Lionel becomes this confident and driven person, which is the exact opposite of how he was only the night before. He found a new part of himself and acquired new power, which will make him become this new and improved Lionel.
  • “I’m a guy who needs to know things, Walter, and I’m in a hurry” (133)
  • “Instead I’d woken into the realization that I was Minna’s successor and avenger, that the city shone with clues. It seemed possible I was a detective on a case.” (Lethem 132)
  • “You can walk from here, gofuckacop”. (124)
  1. There is also a passage where Lionel speaks about what he had heard right before Minna died, and he decides to keep the information he possesses from the rest of the Minna Men. He finally finds his way into becoming the detective he was meant to be. Before, he was not so much of a detective, and more of a helpful partner; the others would usually bring him along and use him and his condition to do tasks they were too lazy to do themselves. Now he graduated to a real detective; he found his calling. He decides to become his own person and to pursue the leads he has in the case of Minna’s murder on his own.
  • “remembered the name Irving, but didn’t say anything” (Lethem 94)
  • “let Danny sleep, let Gilbert wait in his cell, let Tony be missing. I’d go to the Zendo” (132)
  • “I felt a thrill at being taken so seriously. This making the rounds without Gilbert could get to be a habit. For once I was playing lead detective instead of comic – or Tourettic – relief.” (143)
  1. Another relationship that should be highlighted since it helped in Lionel’s personal development is the one he had with Kimmery. An important part of his self-development was the fact that he received the love from a woman, which he had never gotten before. Also, Kimmery showed him love without judgment; she actually cared for him and did not think of him as a freak, but rather as being special. It was the first time somebody actually appreciated him for himself, and was able to discard the fact that he had Tourette’s. It helped him grow into loving himself for who he is, Tourette’s and everything else. He gained some sort of self-love from this particular relationship, which helped in his personal journey into becoming the person he was always meant to be.
  • “Disappointment had crept over me, impossible to justify or perfectly define. I suppose I’d imagined us in Kimmery’s childlike foyer, her West Side tree house, and three cats hiding. But now I understood she was rootless, alienated in this space” (Lethem 213)
  • “No, but I mean strange in a good way, too” ( 211).
  • “Kimmery leaned against me as if we were still in the cab. I didn’t need the support to stand anymore, but I didn’t stop it from happening” (Lethem 206)
  • “[Lionel] wasn’t ticcing much, for a couple of reasons. The first was Kimmery herself, still an unprecedented balm to [him] this late in the day…” (Lethem, 211)
  • ” She’s different from anyone I’ve ever met,” ( 297)
  1. In the end, he ends up not taking over the role of Minna, Danny does. He also does not get to be with Kimmery as she moved in with her ex boyfriend. Although we have the idea that Lionel loses all of his personal achievements at the end of the novel, it is not entirely true. Lionel finds peace in himself; he evolves into self-love without the need for someone to get him there. He does it all on his won and finds a certain peace within himself despite everything that happened; vengeance change him and made him to be the person that he is at the end of the novel; a whole new person, although he is back at square one in his life.
  • “the new frank Minna” (Lethem 305)


*** not all quotes were found yet; those stated are ideas, but I am still looking for the perfect ones to illustrate my main points. It is a work in progress.

Works Cited

Lethem,  Jonathan. Motherless Brooklyn. Vintage Books, 1999.


Savana Di Quinzio (extension granted for October 6 due to Intensive Phys. Ed. course)


One thought on “Evolution of One’s self

  1. You were meant to write an actual draft where you incorporate your quotes. This is more like an advanced outline. Having said that, there’s a lot of interesting stuff in here that you can work with going forward. I think you highlight Lionel’s progression throughout this novel eloquently. You have a lot of evidence here from different parts of the novel. It’s hard to comment on this as a draft because you haven’t incorporated any of these quotes. You certainly won’t be able to use all of these quotes. But, it’s always better to have too much material than not enough in the drafting process. It’s hard for me to comment much more than that because of the structure here, but I see a lot of potential in this to turn into an excellent final draft. Your writing is strong and your reading of this novel is astute. Good work.


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