Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A World without History?

Calvino’s Invisible Cities makes clear the role personal perspective plays in the how a certain place or journey is experienced by a particular traveler. Black Rainbow also perpetuates the idea that every character brings with him a certain prejudice or background which affects the way he responds to various circumstances in the plot.
At the opening of his text, Wendt uses simplistic language to establish the dull tone of his characters’ routine suburban existence.  Although both the husband and wife, who remain nameless, are active within their shared life, they react differently to their circumstances, “the same[ness] of every morning” (14). The supposed normalcy and ritualistic lifestyle provides the husband, the main character, with a sense of security while his wife feels as though she is trapped by her situation. She explains to her husband that she “want[s] to go back to [her] house, [their] son, [their] community” (13). While his wife suffers (17) under the constant surveillance of Auckland’s government, the husband finds the city and his Tribunal meetings to be “an egg in which [he feels] secure, unafraid” (22). Their journey continues as a series of routines which can either be viewed as limiting or as stabilizing depending on interpretive choice.
Another example of perspective’s role in interpretation is presented when the protagonist is recognized as a Free Citizen by the Tribunal and begins his pursuit as a “searcher.” The narrator sees his status and his mission as motivating and reinvigorating: “there was purpose to [his] life again: the search for [his] family, while they, the hunters, stalked [him]” (43). An outsider, like a reader, however, could view the protagonist’s quest as a game, a contrived situation organized by the Tribunal, which leaves him notes, directions, and vague threats. His story is referred to as an “epic” (99), illustrating that it is already scripted and its end determined.
The role of personal bias is acknowledged somewhat directly throughout the first half of Black Rainbow, as well. The narrator explains, it is “strange how we see reality through art and the other cultural baggage we carry” (65). At the safehouse, as the keeper begins to tell her first story, the protagonist thinks that “a tale is about other tales; it is also the teller and her telling” (105) meaning that every story is affected by multiple points of view and can never truly be unbiased. Even the President of the Tribunal says, as quoted by John, that “‘We are each many selves’” (77). This acknowledgement is ironic because the Tribunal’s goal is to erase individual histories for the betterment of the universal community. The keeper at the safehouse poses a poignant question which will be important to examine as Wendt’s text continues: “What happens when the history, the looking back, is outlawed, bred out of our breath?” (106) Is this erasure even possible—can a character or person truly come to an experience without the effect of preconceived notions or subjective ideologies?

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