21 November 2013
History Recycled in the Works of T.C. Boyle
History's repeating itself is a dominant theme throughout T.C. Boyle's short stories and novels. If people do not learn from past mistakes, they are likely to fail again. By revisiting history, the author teaches the importance of awareness and caution in an ever-changing society. In “The Tortilla Curtain” published in 1995 a specific migrant problem in the 1930s is modified to fit contemporary immigration. Candido and America's battle for survival after immigrating to the United States repeats a similar event depicted in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Boyle's ...view middle of the document...
The fantasy that Candido and America desperately want; a white picket fence, a refrigerator, and a dishwasher were all extravagant luxuries that seem so common now. Candido summarizes the typical middle class:
white faces, high heels business suits, the greedy eyes, and ravenous mouths. They lived
in their glass palaces, with their gates and fences and security systems, they left half-
eaten lobsters and beefsteaks on their plates when the rest of the world was starving,
spent enough to feed and clothe an entire country on their exercise equipment, their
swimming pools, and tennis courts, jogging shoes, and all of them even the poorest had
two cars. Where was the justice in that? (200)
The Rincons and the Mossbachers collide in "an accident in a world of accidents, the collision of opposing forces" (197). Delaney then begins his spiral toward toward hatred for immigrants and foreigners in general when he hits Candido with his car. The Mossbacher's story of immigrant resentment and high society moves side by side with the Rincons effort to learn the American way of life. Boyle writes the stories concomitantly to show the increasing tension between the two families. Boyle writes stories accordingly to show the increasing tension between the two families. The story climaxes when Candido saves Delaney’s life at the end.
The wall that surrounds the Arroyo Blanco Estates is the key to unlocking Boyle's purpose in the book. This wall was built to isolate the community and segregate its neighborhood from the immigrant influx. The wall built around the neighborhood is similar to the Berlin Wall built in 1961. The Arroyo Estate's fortress and the Berlin Wall were subjected to the same graffiti polluted barriers. The street art represents a rebellion against the constraint of the walls. Society
avoids aiding the less fortunate by building walls and pretending that problems do not exist. Boyle implies that society does not heal the wounds that fester within the system. These plagues, these lesions that feed off the hate and the nativism of the nation are no more evolved or humane now than they were fifty or one hundred years ago.
Published in 1989, If the River was Whiskey shows the danger of modern society's misguided values. In the story the "Human Fly," Zoltan Mindszenty attempts to rekindle society's dare devil stunts and death defying feats. He is a modern day Don Quixote who clings to the dying hope that risking his life will make him famous, much as it did for Harry Houdini in the early 20th century:
It was a heady moment, transcendent, the cameras whirring, the passengers cheering,
Zoltan's greatness a part of us all. This was an event, a once-in-a-lifetime thing, like
watching Hank Aaron stoke his seven hundred fifteenth homer or Neil Armstrong
walking out onto the surface of the moon. (314)
In "The Ape Lady in Retirement" history not only repeats itself but it moves in a circular path. Beatrice...