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It can be disturbing to consider that the world may end someday, particularly when the dystopian future is portrayed almost poetically. Auster brings this description to life in her novel "In the Country of Last Things," which challenges the reader to navigate an exotic and remote future setting. The story takes place in a city where life is still there, police and military are there, and people go to work as usual, but man has destroyed the world and it is no longer the way it was. This odyssey is narrated by a girl called Anna Blume, and it displays the hopeless eventuality of a world that envisions the post-apocalyptic city created by man. Auster portrays a despicable facet of urban life that makes the audience suffer from didactic touches from an account of how man’s progress leads to his demise.
Man’s progress is portrayed as a place where only negativity thrives and the things once cherished by man are no longer in existences thus leaving a grim arena. Even though it is not clear when this season started, it is evident that man has played a major role in his demise (Barone web). For instance, human reproduction and commercial manufacture are no longer in existence (Bragard 479). The author writes “Things fall apart and vanish, and nothing new is made. People die, and babies refuse to be born…I can’t remember seeing a single newborn child” (Auster 8). Instead of manufacturing, new things are made from existing ones (Marble 40). The world in the novel is one that makes one prefer death to life.
Using the remarkable poise of Anna Blume, Auster makes it evident that man’s progress has taken him to that place where he has accepted death. Instead of the normal approach of men running away from death, Auster ornaments this world with people who choose euthanasia over the struggles they face while living in the current world. Instead of using some form of disgusting expressions, the author makes the suicide rites intriguing (Barone web; Bragard 479). In fact, suicide is such a glorified act that only the wealthiest people can afford euthanasia. He says “…few but the wealthiest people can afford them…business is nevertheless quite brisk, especially at the Euthanasia Clinics” (Auster 13). Man’s progress has led him to that point where he appreciates death.
In this city, the only thing left for man’s progress is hope as his every effort leads to his demise. The people who populate the city live in squalor and it appears that man’s progress is bound to lead to such an occurrence. For instance, the cars are driven by methane instead of petrol. Instead of this being a source of help for man to overcome emerging challenges, it is a curse that leads to his demise. Auster says “Their solution is to maintain a steadfast cheerfulness, no matter how dismal the conditions around them. These people are known as the Smilers…” (26). Even in the face of capricious devastations, the world still remains hopeful that man will progress and find a solution to some problems.
Auster’s presentation of man’s progress is not only unnerving but it shows that it will lead to his demise. Auster uses the chronicles of the unrelenting and hopeful protagonist called Anna Blume whose search for her brother brings her to an urban place created by man and destroyed by his progressive endeavors. It even goes to the extent that the future is so grim that something as sad as death is glorified. The end of man is also evident through the demise of reproduction and manufacturing. Clearly, the urban life that was created by man leads to his demise.
Auster, Paul. In the Country of Last Things. Chicago: Faber & Faber, 1987. Print.
Barone, Dennis. "Introduction: Paul Auster and the Postmodern American Novel." Beyond the Red Notebook (n.d.): 1-26. Web.
Bragard, Veronique. “Sparing Words in the Wasted Land: Garbage, Texture, and Écriture Blanche in Auster's In the Country of Last Things and McCarthy's The Road.” Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, vol. 20, no. 20, 2013, pp. 479-493.
Marble, Anne R. Heralds of American literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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