Southie’s Evolution: Insights From MacDonald’s “All Souls”

Growing Up in Southie: MacDonald’s Early Years

Having grown up in the Old Colony Housing Project in South Boston, a dominantly Irish-Catholic community, Michael Patrick MacDonald is a tough kid. From a child to a grown man, he has witnessed the good and bad of Southie, a place that gives people hope and shatters them as well. Now, as an activist against violence and crimes and also as a writer, MacDonald recalls his family’s life stories in his memoir All Souls, a book that leaves readers in tears of both sorrow and astonishment. In his plainly written, powerful memoir, MacDonald tells stories of his mother, Helen King, a strong and colorful Irish woman sustaining the lives of her eleven kids, and remembers the four brothers he lost to violence and suicide in a poor Irish neighborhood in the late twentieth century.

Tales of Crime and Community Silence

MacDonald was one of eight surviving children born (of several fathers) to his mother, who played the accordion in local Irish pubs to supplement her welfare checks. As a member of Southie, MacDonald experiences his neighbors’ loyalty to their community, their blatant racism, and their hopelessness when facing the organized crime and entrenched drug culture that was destroying young lives. MacDonald’s recollection of his life in Southie is filled with vivid episodes, especially the family’s loss of his brother Frankie, his mother’s favorite kid with a bright future as a young and talented boxer.

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While I read about the murder of his companions after the police shot him in an armored car robbery, I found myself completely shocked. A young man who brought honor and respect to the community died not because he got shot by a cop but because his fellows strangled him, fearing that he might release something about the crime group that was involved.

Family Dynamics and Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological Theory

However, a more brutal part of this story is that organized crime is never a secret in Southie; residents know about that, but they just keep their mouths shut so they won’t get into trouble themselves. They indirectly acted as bystanders in a life-loss incident. Indifferent people were not the first to blame; at least, they were ignorant of who was the person that manipulates crime. The most shocking is what was revealed at the end of the chapter, the accusation that the FBI, the most authoritative investigation agency in the United States, was paying Southie’s leading gangster, Whitey Bulger, as an informant.

The government was also playing around with innocent lives; only people who lived in the community could feel the pain of losing their loved ones to violence. MacDonald and his siblings’ growing stories also exemplify Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory pretty well in the book. Helen King, the mother of this huge family, plays a very significant role in MacDonald’s kids’ development. Sustaining a life in a housing project is already tough; it’s even harder when she has so many kids and is a single mother or a mother with an abusive husband.

However, King never lets the tough life depress her. She dresses up pretty to play accordion in clubs; she always has a pocket full of toast to give to those who have less; she doesn’t collapse when her kids die, and instead, she never gives up exploring the truth of her boys’ deaths. She is a wonderful mother who passes her hopeful life attitude to her kids. The MacDonalds are the tough ones in the neighborhood. She’s definitely a protective factor in MacDonal’s Microsystem of development. The second level of bioecological theory is the Mesosystem. An example of that is Helen’s interaction with MacDonald’s new friend when the MacDonald family first moves to the Old Colony housing project.

They were not welcomed by the neighbors at first. However, there was a boy who showed kindness to MacDonald and befriended him. As opposed to suspecting what’s the boy’s motivation, Helen gladly welcomed MacDonald’s new friend to their new house. She kindly interacted with the child rather than scolded him for being friends with a new neighbor like his own mother did. Helen exerted positive effects on his son’s new friendship with Southie.

The Busing Crisis and Southie’s Evolution

Before reading this book, the infamous Boston busing crisis was known to me as only a failure to break institutionalized racism. Nevertheless, the complications beyond the topic are striking. Through this book, I learned about the crisis from a Southie perspective. The policy enforcer didn’t even consider the distance that kids have to travel for school every day if they have to be transferred to another distant area. Siblings may result in attending different schools; parents have to adjust their family time with their kids since they might come home at different time intervals because of different bus times.

Black kids have to suffer more discrimination from their white peers for the mistake that policymakers made, and it has nothing to do with their own choices. It was not just a failure; it was a disaster, an unwise choice that lacked consideration from reality. The busing crisis really irritated Southie people and reinforced the stereotypical view in the media that they are racists; Southie was a victim of such a farce. However, so did black people. MacDonald described how residents in Southie attacked the blacks verbally and physically; they even seriously injured a poor Haitian guy who was completely innocent in this whole busing crisis. Southie did make mistakes in the chaos as well.

Even though MacDonald does not excuse Southie’s racism, I’m still curious about how Southie people’s attitude toward black people changes over time. At the end of the book, MacDonald does clarify that people at Roxbury are not interested in taking over Southie’s housing project. However, he knows that. Do Southie people know that? Society evolves as time passes by, and how Southie evolves from a “racist” community, as the media portrayed it, to a more accepting Southie today remains a potential topic for the book to explore more. Despite that, the book paints a frightening portrait of a community under intense economic and social stress and has a strong plea for social justice.


  • MacDonald, M. P. (1999). All Souls: A family story from Southie. Beacon Press.

Odysseus’ Flaws And Contradictions In The Odyssey

The Concept of a Hero and Archetypal Traits

A hero is someone who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities, has performed an act of heroism, and is regarded as an ideal or a model. The definition of a hero is someone who is respected for doing something great and for doing so. Archetypal heroes are people who do noble or heroic things, accomplish their goals, or have a reputation for selflessness. Archetypal heroes also have one crucial flaw, which serves as an imperfection in their lives.

Odysseus’ Heroic Exploits and Overcoming Obstacles

This epic’s main character, Odysseus, is an archetypal hero. Odysseus achieves his goals and overcomes obstacles, but he has flaws that can lead to new conflicts. He accomplishes his goals, and he overcomes every obstacle he comes upon. For example, in the section of the book where he and his crew are about to pass the island of the sirens, they are also in a great deal of danger. As an act of honesty, Odysseus explains how his crew is in danger. “It’s wrong for only one or two to know the revelations that lovely Circe made to me alone. I’ll tell you all so we can die with our eyes wide open now or escape our fate and certain death together.” 

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Odysseus’ Acts of Heroism and Dealing with Flaws

Odysseus is being honest with his crew, telling them that they are likely to die and that nobody will be safe along the way. This is a heroic act since the actions he is taking can save his crew’s lives. Odysseus also saves his crew as they approach the sirens.“Now, with a sharp sword, I sliced an ample wheel of beeswax down into pieces and kneaded them in my two strong hands, and the wax soon grew soft, worked by my strength and Helios, burning rays, the sun at high noon, and I stopped the ears of my comrades one by one”. Odysseus deafens his crew in order to save them from the Sirens. The Sirens kill people by luring them into their island with their songs. Once drawn in, the only way to get out of the island is by boat. If the ship hit the rocky perimeter of the island, it would be destroyed, and the crew would drown. In order to prevent his crew from hearing the Sirens and from being swayed by them. The fact that his crew has to overcome this obstacle impacts Odysseus’ journey. Odysseus completed a heroic act by saving lives and accomplishing his objectives because, after doing this, he and his crew were able to pass the island without being drawn towards the Sirens. By saving lives and overcoming obstacles, Odysseus has shown himself to be a heroic character.

Hubris and Contradictions in Odysseus’ Character

Even when his previous actions were heroic, Odysseus can contradict himself with hubris at times. An example of this is when Odysseus and his crew encounter Polyphemus (a cyclops and the son of Zeus), who begins killing Odysseus’ crew. In an attempt to outsmart Polyphemus, Odysseus finds a large wood club that he left behind the previous night and, with the help of his men, sharpens the narrow end to a point. Polyphemus returns home that night after herding his flock of sheep. He sits down and kills two more of Odysseus’ men. Odysseus offers Polyphemus the strong wine Maron gave him. Polyphemus becomes drunk and unreliable after drinking the wine. When Polyphemus asks for Odysseus’ name, promising him a guest gift if he answers, Odysseus says, “I will tell you, but you must give me a guest gift as you’ve promised. Nobody- that’s my name. Nobody- so my mother and father call me, and all my friends.”

Odysseus wasn’t telling Polyphemus his real name, which means that Polyphemus doesn’t understand WHO Odysseus is, nonetheless. Polyphemus thinks of it as a true name and says that he can eat no one last, which shall be his guest gift. Polyphemus crashes to the ground and passes out. Odysseus, with the assistance of his men, lifts the flaming stake, charges forward, and drives it into Polyphemus’s eye, dazzling him. With Polyphemus currently unsighted, he yells for help from his fellow Cyclopes that “no one has hurt him. The opposite Cyclopes assume Polyphemus is creating a fool out of them or that it should be a matter with the gods and go away. Once morning comes, Odysseus and his men throw off the cave, unseen by Polyphemus, by clinging to Polyphemus’s sheep as they are going dead set graze. As aforementioned within the literary composition, “And with that threat he let my ram go free outside. But as soon as we’d got one-foot past cave and courtyard, first I loosed myself from the ram, then loosed my men, then quickly, glancing back again and again, we drove our flock, good plump beasts with their long shanks, straight to the ship.”

Odysseus was able to escape Polyphemus further by obtaining his crew in conjunction with Polyphemus’s oxen, which they required. This shows courage by Odysseus having the ability to avoid wasting others from the hassle that would have gotten them killed. Overall, this can be one of Odysseus’ biggest heroic feats. He came up with a creative arrangement that outsmarted his enemy, then managed to avoid wasting him et al. from danger. However, Odysseus then contradicts his own courageousness by saying: “Cyclops- if any man on the face of the Earth should ask you who blinded, shamed you so- say Odysseus, raider of cities, he gouged out your eye, Laertes son who makes his home in Ithaca!”

Odysseus needed to let Polyphemus understand who was the person who outsmarted him and discovered his name, kin, and home. Not only was this one of Odysseus’ biggest mistakes, but it can be a contradiction to Odysseus’ courageousness earlier. Earlier, once Odysseus told Polyphemus that his name was no one, he was protective of his identity in order that Polyphemus couldn’t damage him. When Odysseus tells Polyphemus his real name, he prays to his father, a Greek deity, for revenge. However, at that, he bellowed dead set lord Greek deity, poking his arms to the starry skies, and prayed, Hear me, Poseidon, god of the sea-blue WHO rocks the earth! If I actually am your son and you claim to be my father- return, grant that Odysseus, raider of cities, mythical being son WHO makes his target Ithaca, ne’er reaches home.

After this, the Greek deity hears his son’s prayer and purportedly provides Polyphemus the strength to hurl an oversized boulder at Odysseus’ ship, which lands within the water next to the ship, inflicting the ship to impinge on near land. This might have happened if Odysseus hadn’t told his name to Polyphemus; he wouldn’t have been able to pray to the Greek deity, leading to him having the strength to damage Odysseus and his crew. Odysseus’ highhandedness will contradict his heroics and may have an effect on him in negative ways. Odysseus incorporates a tendency to be reckless and do things stupidly concerning what result it may have on his future. His highhandedness will usually get within the means of his accomplishments, and his efforts appear to be for nothing.

Conclusion: Balancing Heroic Deeds and Flaws

Overall, Odysseus could be a shining example of an associate degree prototypal hero by having the ability to beat his own conflicts and save others, whereas having flaws will counteract his courageousness. These traits are shown over the course of Odysseus’ journey. Odysseus shows courageousness once he and his crew locomote the island of the Sirens. Odysseus saves his crew by plugging their ears with beeswax so that they cannot hear the Sirens’ song. If they detected it, they might have died. Odysseus conjointly has flaws that each hero should have (no hero is perfect), and Odysseus has the flaw of highhandedness. He shows it throughout the island of the Sirens by permitting solely himself to listen to the Sirens. This was Odysseus proving that a person may hear the Sirens and live. However, it had been an associate degree supernumerary act and placed his crew at risk. An additional sample of this was when Odysseus and his crew encountered Polyphemus.

Odysseus outsmarts Polyphemus and gets his crew out safely till Odysseus tells Polyphemus his real name, home, and family, permitting Polyphemus to hope to the Greek deity for revenge. In total, Odysseus is an associate degree prototypal hero. He saves himself and achieves his goals; however, he conjointly has flaws similar to the other person, making him a sensible individual to somebody who will relate. In our modern times, there are those who we glance up to as heroes. Those who might have traits like Odysseus himself. Troopers who serve overseas are a decent example. They perpetually have obstacles to beat and save others or may have their own flaws that build them a hero. Odysseus is not any totally different than the other heroes that we glance up to nowadays, and we understand them by their heroic acts and their flaws that make them relatable to us.


  1. Homer. “The Odyssey.” Translated by Robert Fagles, Penguin Classics, 1997.

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