Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Black Rainbow -- The Influence of History

In Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Marco Polo describes many different cities and each of their unique personalities.  Each city has a distinct past history that influences how the city functions in the present.  The histories of these cities cannot be erased and they manage to function regardless.  The novel states that although one’s past is unavoidable, it cannot be erased.  While Calvino’s Invisible Cities emphasizes the importance of history, the characters of Wendt’s Black Rainbow learn to live without their personal histories.  Characters are forced to live without a past and their present is determined by the choices that they make.  The narrator of the novel must make choices that affect his present to return to one part of his past, his family.
            Before the narrator could begin his journey, he had to be “dehistoried” by the Supreme Tribunal.  The narrator’s document states that “…the bearer of this reference is now the ideal citizen of our State.  He has undergone and survived with A’s the prescribed process of Dehistorying.  He submitted his soul, his history, to us, with total admission, honesty, and frankness” (33).  The Supreme Tribunal grants the narrator complete freedom in trade for his personal history.  Although the narrator is at first reluctant to accept complete freedom, he takes it, knowing that he will be reunited with his family when he accepts the document.
            After receiving the document stating his freedom, the narrator begins his journey.  The narrator spends the rest of the first half of the novel following written instructions, all of which are to be destroyed after being read.  The narrator is instructed to erase the past of the notes, similar as to how his past was erased as well.  The notes both reward and threaten the narrator, giving him $1,000 as well as threatening him with messages such as “Don’t retreat.  If you do you will forfeit a loved one” (48).  The narrator forces moral dilemmas, for example, whether he should use his powerful document to steal a car or not.  Soon, the narrator learns that the Tribunal not only owns his past, but will excuse him of crimes, as long as he follows their orders.  While the narrator enjoys his newfound freedom, he still dwells on past memories while in search for his family.  These memories and histories are unavoidable, as much as someone tries to erase them.

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