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An Analysis of David Gulbraa's "Tales of the Mall Masters"
The author, David Gulbraa, uses the Independent State of California in the novel to represent a utopian society bases on free market capitalism. He makes this statement very clear by stating that the flag of the California nation has only one symbol the gold dollar sign. The dollar sign is a powerful image of capitalism since it represents the essence of a free market system. Everything any person does is for personal gain and the only true comparable measure between products and services is money. Another strong statement in the novel is the privatization of public roads. Some individuals own certain roads, streets or boulevards because it is the only method to maintain the infrastructure in perfect condition. This is made clear when the well-kept roads in California are compared to the pothole worn out roads in America.
In the novel America is used to represent everything that is evil about a religious governed society. Some examples include potholes and ill-maintained streets. But the most important symbol is the poverty crisis that exists in America compared to the wealthy Californians. This creative use of America might seem shocking to most readers but that was the author’s intent. America is usually seen as a powerful country that tries to help every nation and for its image to be desecrated is horrendous. Despite this negative connotation it helps the reader to make the connection between America and Middle Eastern religious nations because the author uses Christianity as a bridge to explain Middle Eastern religious culture. Only by using Christianity can readers understand some aspect of Middle Eastern culture because Christians do not have sufficient knowledge about the Koran. Using Christianity helps readers comprehend and understand Middle Eastern mentality by putting religious societies in perspective.
The author also goes to the extremes to create a new type of culture to symbolize free market capitalism by illustrating the ritual of the Festival of Arte. The Festival of Arte is celebrated every year on December 25Th. The author uses this date to contradict the Christmas celebration of the Americans. Furthermore, the festival is used to illustrate the symbolic marriage of Apollo and Dionysus and the integration of reason and emotion in human life. During the ceremony there are seven merchants that represent the seven classic virtues of capitalism. An elliptical crystal represents the virtue of rationality because to be rational means to understand and act accordingly. Thus, the crystal is a statement about transparency. Likewise, the pillar represents the virtue of independence. Without independence no person can stand on his own; thus the pillar is a sign of strength. The golden shield represents integrity because it stands for what a person is. Integrity is the goodwill of a person and protects him from false accusations. Glasses are the symbol for honesty because it is a virtue that requires purity. Glasses are clear and demonstrate strong visibility. The sword characterizes Justice because it requires fairness. Moreover, the sword demonstrates the seriousness and harshness that sometimes encompasses justice. Productivity is embodied by the sledgehammer because it requires a person to do hard work. Also, the sledgehammer is a more practical symbol of work. Lastly, a crown of sparkling jewels epitomizes the virtue of pride. To be proud means to be selfish since jewels are a perfect match it represents wealth.
The author also goes to an extreme to display his disapproval of a religious based society by telling the story of Sarah Fletcher and her lover Alan Benton. Sarah is the daughter of the Governor of Kentucky that eventually became a frontrunner for presidency of America. Sarah owned a small bookstore in America, however, she also sold books banned and deemed illegal by the American government. Sarah believed in free speech and thus was willing to sell various underground publications. Alan Benton was a journalist and he also wrote on topics that criticized the government, which was illegal and dangerous. Eventually Sarah and Alan's lives were both put at risk due to their belief in free speech. As a result, Sarah fled to California to seek refuge from her father and the American government. Sarah's father and the American government both realized that they could not bring her back to America so they sent her lover Alan to get her back with the ultimatum of death as punishment for failure. Alan unwilling complied since the American government put a bomb in his head that would explode unless Sarah was brought back to America. However, Alan chose to commit suicide. He tried but never died since the bomb was improperly implanted into his head and thus he continued to live with the bomb in his head.
The story of Sarah Fletcher and Alan Benton is used by the author to illustrate that a religious governed society cannot function properly. The author uses the incompetence of the American government to plant a bomb into Alan Benton's head as the ultimate symbol of ineptitude. Especially since planting a bomb is suppose to be performed by professionals and specialists. If the American government's professionals and specialists cannot properly plant a bomb then they are not fit or qualified to run the country of America. Moreover, the novel also expresses the level of corruption in a religious based government. This is embodied by Sarah's father, the governor of Kentucky, and soon to be president of America. Sarah's father is considered to be a very religious person and this is portrayed by his platform for president. His platform is based on religion and to be religious usually has the connotation of a good person since it is based on following the right path. Despite this deceit Sarah and Alan learn the true nature of the governor of Kentucky at dinner in his mansion. They learn that the governor has lied, bribed, killed, and cheated his way into office. His apparent smile and good nature is just a facade.
Despite shocking revelations about America the author uses the theme of sexuality to an even higher level to frighten readers. In the state of California girls are not encouraged to be virgins since it is a symbol of filth. To be lusted and wanted by men is seen as good and thus the negative term slut in today's society is a good compliment in the Californian society. This is the reason they make a ritual to showcase girls are losing their virginity. The author even goes further by stating that if a girl cannot find someone to lose her virginity she losses the respect of her community. These statements in the novel are a real eye opener for any reader since it goes against any teaching both in the bible and tradition. The author further states that sexual orgies are promoted since it is a way for experimentation. The reason the author has included these statements into the novel is not only shocking but mind boggling since they have nothing to do with the contradiction and comparison of a religious based society and the free market economy.
The author believes that since free market economy is based on individual choice and that most persons perform acts for personal gain most people behave and act with the principle of responsibility. He tries to put this concept into his sexual theme, which in theory makes sense but in reality is ridiculous. He fails to acknowledge the immaturity of youngsters under the age of eighteen. Moreover, not all Californians have the same level of maturity. This is clearly portrayed by Diane Copernicus and her story of being pressured to lose her virginity.
In conclusion, "Tales of the Mall Masters" by David Gulbraa is an excellent novel showcasing the difference between the free market capitalism society and a religious based governed society. The author does take the religious based governed society to an extreme by branding it as evil and bad. He does not look at the good aspects a religious based government can bring or cultivate. However, he makes the free market capitalism society appear good but includes some extreme topics that to me does not seem to be appropriate like his sexuality and individual responsibility theme. He does not include the negative aspects of the free market society. Despite this the novel does accomplish its goal of shocking readers. Moreover, he does help to bridge the gap of these two societies by using Christianity as the main focus of the novel. Moreover, the author makes it clear of his support and favoritism of free market capitalism by making the novel a one sided argument.
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