Personal Decay in the Delta

29 Mar

I want to expand on many of the points Zack raised in his post, specifically in how these characters represent the physical decay of the Delta in their own deteriorating lives. A notable example of an individual undergoing this change is the camp doctor- he is introduced as smoking heavily, being overweight, and being physically repulsive to Rufus. Yet we are then shown this character as a young, idealistic man, working to improve the lives of his village clients. Yet when oil is found in the village (as had been desired by the villagers) he takes on the role of recorder- he notes the toxic levels of the water, land, and even the people themselves. But it is this information, and the lack of action it inspires- the oil company merely pays him, the government ignores his reports, and the international community publishes his reports, but takes no action to pressure either the oil company or government to improve the situation. In this situation, it is understandable how an individual can be worn down by circumstance, and the clear lack of opportunity to change these problems for the better.

On a larger scale, the kidnapping in this novel represents a larger change in the society of the Niger delta, what is considered normal or even necessary behavior by the people, normal individuals who are not members of criminal organizations see criminal activity as a legitimate action, as a means to make money and to get something back from the oil companies. Saloman is not a criminal, and before the despair of his fiancee’s affair, he likely would have not kidnapped his employer. Yet in these circumstances, he is easily convinced that kidnapping is not only a viable option to get revenge on him employer, but also an activity with little consequence- certainly not a dangerous crime with the outcome that occurs.

Even the criminal organizations in the Delta are degrading- the character of the Professor, or rather the idea of the Professor, is a man who was once a respected (as a rebel) leader in the Delta, who was killed and replaced by a weaker, more paranoid man. This new Professor is more violent, less organized, and more chaotic. This decline of the criminal organizations, to the point where they are a violent force acting on the people, rather than a force for the people, is demonstrative of the hopelessness and decline of movements in the Delta, much of which was demonstrated in the history of the region demonstrated in Sweet Crude. The history of the region, from peaceful protests quashed from the government, to the initial groups arming to defend themselves, to the number of criminal organizations and individuals now acting violently under the guise of freedom, shows that even the movements for freedom in the region become corrupted and lessened as they fight hopelessly in circumstances that don’t seem to be improving.

This novel has no satisfying conclusion- at least the expected ending of a mystery, where the kidnapping victim would be returned, Rufus would return to write his story, and the traveling villagers would find a new home. Instead, the ending of this novel seems to taper off- we are left with the impression of where the characters will wind up, but as long as the situation in the Delta does not have a clear resolution, there can be no clear resolution for individuals.

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