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THE PATRIARCH’S BALLS: CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS,VIOLENCE, AND DYSTOPIA IN GEORGE SAUNDERS’ VISION OF CONTEMPORARY AMERICA
Año del Documento
Juliana Nalerio, THE PATRIARCH’S BALLS: CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS,VIOLENCE, AND DYSTOPIA IN GEORGE SAUNDERS’ VISION OF CONTEMPORARY AMERICA, miscelánea: a journal of english and american studies 52 (2015): pp. 89-102 ISSN: 1137-6368
In late 19th Century America, the Patriarch’s Balls united the wealthy New York elite. The Society of the Patriarch organized lavish balls to foster a sense of self- satisfaction at belonging to the society of “The Four Hundred”, namely those who mattered as against the rest who plainly did not. In 21st Century America, the tables have been turned and the class-conscious are less able to enjoy the fruits of their labor sans guilt (or the realization of a nasty pun). As Slavoj Žižek asserts in Violence: Six Sideways Reflections, contemporary America’s “culture of capital” is marked by the systemic violence that allows the West to maintain its First World status and North American writer George Saunders, for one, knows it. This paper will look at how Saunders returns to those East Coast, greater New York communities in the 21st Century, communities that are now more egalitarian and “open” yet just as concerned about keeping up with the Joneses. Writing their stories with a dystopic twist, he intimately explores the anxieties that plague their communities, while also maintaining a sense of the universal in his work that allows for its wider interpretation and relevance to the American national identity in general. Saunders writes as the moral compass of a community that while successful according to American standards cannot help but feel all the dirtier after “the help” have cleaned the kitchen. In this paper we will discuss some of the techniques Saunders uses to explain the violence at the heart of American life, from the most obvious —the image of the Semplica Girl— to his more subtle use of analogy, co- opted discourse, and embedded narrative. Drawing on Slavoj Žižek’s tripartite notion of violence, this paper reveals how the Saunders short story “The Semplica Girl Diaries” engages with the latent violence inherent in America’s post-colonial capitalist system. The paper aims to show that Saunders’ figure of the Semplica Girl metonymically embodies the violence of outsourced slave labor while invoking colonialist America; whereas, Saunders’ protagonist is the fruit of a moronic confluence of modern-day liberal guilt and historical colonialist desire.
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