Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A City Underneath a City

In Black Rainbow, Albert Wendt uses the city to aid in his argument against the distorted ideals of The Tribunal. Specifically, the city seems to be used as a critique against extreme captalism and oppressive rule. The three youths that the Free Citizen encounters are the primary characters that help to shed light on the city that Wendt gives us. It seems as though these youths know the city as it really is, unlike the members of The Tribunal, who have a false sense of the city. The Free Citizen says, "They even filled in what wasn't in the maps, especially when we descended into the labyrinth below the inner city, into a world I knew nothing about." (134). The youths open up the Free Citizen to an unfamiliar world full of reality, which aids in the Free Citizen's rebellion from The Tribunal and its ways. The city that the young people expose the Free Citizen to is " a city underneath a city" (134). The young people claim that they were " the first" (134) in this city. Therefore, they illuminate the truth that was buried when the Tribunal took over and imposed its foolish laws on the people. Even though this truth was buried, these rebellious youths are able to expose the city that lies beneath and has long since been forgotten.

The building in which the Government's Insurance Corporation is housed is aptly named " the palace". The Free Citizen describes the building as being, " twenty stories high, stained by rain, [ and] sightless rows of windows" (136). It is altogether ironic that the government believes this place to be a palace when it truly is " just another f****** ugly office building" (136), according to Faintail, one of the young people who know the truth behind the ediface. This office is the epitome of extreme capitalism and oppressive rule; its description is cleverly articulated by Wendt, so as to enlighten the reader on the point he is trying to convey. In addition to being filled with the smell of mildew and people that do not make eye contact with anyone, the office building is " Just hundreds of offices inhabited by nine- to-five people, desks, filing cabinets, paper, memories,paperclips, rubber bands, Twink, word processors, and computers" (136). This dreary, monotonous description of the office building certainly depicts the corporate atmosphere in a negative light, therefore driving home Wendt's message.

Wendt's novel ties in perfectly with the 'Year of the City' here at Loyola. I think it would be beneficial for us to see the city from the perspective of the uncommon citizens- citizens much like the young people who know the underground city so well in Black Rainbow. We can gain valuable knowledge from these people and perhaps discover certain facets of Baltimore that were previously unknown to us. These people can be a lens for us to view the city as it is not normally seen and prove to be invaluable throughout our exploration of the city. As students at Loyola, we see the city as college students only. It is important to recall that one's position in the city affects their overall experience in it. Therefore, it would be helpful to acquire a viewpoint outside of the one we already have of Baltimore.