Monday, September 12, 2005

Can We All Say Allegory?, N.Roy Clifton The City Beyond the Gates (Richmond, Ontario: Scholastic, 1971)

Janey-Ann lives in a peaceful enclave where everyone is at one with nature, they wear woollen clothes, uses horses, eat seeds and home made bread and apples. Beyond the Fence the trees are all dead and the earth parched.

Janey-Ann decides to go beyond the Fence and plant a tree. When she has done this she finds the gate has disappeared, and she decides this is because she doesn't want to go home enough. She walks on and comes to the city of Fair-Look where the Giant fulfills all wishes, and the Kemark controls the people and takes one in twenty for the Giant's tax.

You can tell this is allegory. The people in Fair-Walk eat flavoured mush, the people on the other side eat "Sunseeds" which are a mixture of all seeds together. Allegory can never be bothered with world building, it tends to have only one kind of everything and to point at it with large signs, In this case the signs are very real, in the windows of shops. Janey-Ann is very clearly the Pilgrim, seeking salvation only to be distracted by the bright colours around her.

The people of Fair-Walk are trapped by their Giant who provides "everything" they want, and everything they want is a weak parody of capitalism in which there is multiplicity of choice which all resolves into new and shiny things which all look the same. Men wear denims, girls where transparent clothing. Everyone chews gum. And all of this is discussed in the syrupy-iest of tones and mysticism. Capitalism is turned into a religion, Janey-Ann's solution is a back to the earth socialism.

Eventually Janey-Ann escapes with a boy, who has to give up all his clothing and possessions to pass across the fence to salvation.

The funny thing is that the book I'm blogging tomorrow has a very similar plot but manages to reduce the allegorical insistence of this book merely to over-intrusive metaphor.

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