Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Tale of Two Cities

Wendt explores two cities in his novel Black Rainbow. There is a city of the ruling class or the class of the Tribunal where its citizens have everything. The other city is a class of the Polynesian people, who are considered secular. The city of the Tribunal is seen as the “other” by the secular city because the Polynesians have not conformed. The city of the Tribunal and President are described as intruders. The Free Citizens wife states, “They are still here?” (17). The Free Citizens Wife is referring to the Tribunal. She refers to them as “they” meaning the “other”. She does not consider herself part of the city her husband wants to belong to. That city is foreign to her. She does not want to give up her history to the President’s City like her husband. Unlike the Free Citizen’s wife, his companion refers to the Polynesian city as the “other”. She states, “Their refusal to be like us, be law abiding citizens” (27). She believes the Polynesians must conform for her to feel comfortable. There are two distinct cities in the world of the Black Rainbow. These cities cannot seem to commingle. The Polynesian city must conform to the President’s city. The Polynesian must give up their history to be a part of an institution which considers itself superior.
Wendt adapts this story line from the history of the South Pacific Islands. The islands were European colonies and they were constantly overloaded by European immigrants. The people of the islands feared they would lose their history and culture through this immersion of the immigrants. The Polynesian people believed their culture would be siphoned off with the overload of Europeans and their own culture. Today, the Polynesians’ worst fear is coming true. Most schools have converted to teaching French to their students. Many of these generations are not aware of their past.

Baltimore contains two cities like Black Rainbow. There is the city of the privileged and the city of the underprivileged. We as Loyola students are encouraged to seek out the city of the underprivileged and help. However, what if our help is viewed as an intrusion? The city of the underprivileged can see our assistance as an infringement upon their culture. This city does have a history and culture that can be erased by the intrusion of Loyola students. Like the President’s city, we view ourselves as the privileged and the superior, but how do we know our way is the right way? Some people might welcome our help and some might refuse believing the way and where they live is right for them and makes them happy.