Thursday, September 16, 2010

History and Travel

In Black Rainbow, the main character takes a journey to Auckland, New Zealand and throughout the country to find his family. The travel appears to be forced, for the main character comments on being summoned by the Tribunal to Auckland. After his arrival to Auckland, the Tribunal strips away his family away from him as well as his past life. Once the main character becomes a free citizen, as decided by the Tribunal, they set up a journey for the man of tasks to complete in order to find his family.

The journey the main character takes becomes that of a forced travel story, dictated by the governing Tribunal. In search for his family, the main character takes on the travel as indicated by the Tribunal so that he may regain a piece of his past life that has been given up. The travel is desired by the main so that he may find his family but rather it is not by choice. The Tribunal designates the travel form as well as destination for the man with unknown consequences for not traveling. The aspect of travel here is thus not for luxury but rather necessity.

Throughout the novel, the idea of history is presented alongside the main characters travels. The main character states, “I have no history. She has no herstory. Our children’s history began with us but that’s all – there is no time before that. History is a curse, the Tribunal has ruled. We must be free of it to be.” (Wendt 21). Here the main character expresses the burden history has upon him for the Tribunal wishes him to be free of his history and to live in the present, working towards the future. His history and past is given up. What is of the past does not matter for this is before Auckland and thus before that of the Tribunal’s rule over him and his family. Their past is their own, away from the Tribunal, and must be given up.

History in itself does affect travel. What a person already believes or knows about a place is put on to that place before the person arrives. The connection of history and travel is one that the history of a person can affect that of their travel experience. Similarly, having traveled can also become a part of one’s history. Either way the past or history affects the future and thereby potential future travels. To me it seems the author may be implying to the reader, through his inclusion of history, to discover a place for themselves rather than relying on preconceived notions from the past. Further this travel can be that of physical or internal travel but either way history should not be reflected on the present or future.

Further in the novel, the author writes of “dehistorying” (Wendt 33) as well as the idea that the Tribunal has the main characters full history and now he is, “free of that burden.” Here history is thought to be that of a burden as well as something that can be taken over and taken away. By taking away history, the past of someone is also stripped away along with their past burdens. The Tribunal becomes in possession of this history, taking away from the individual their experiences.

The notion of taking away as well as taking over someone else’s history seems quite strange to me. Through history classes and stories from the past we are able to understand others history and take a piece of this onto ourselves. However, it would not be possible to strip this history away from the person who experienced the history for it is there individual experience and not an experience of anyone else’s. The burdens could be lightened through opening others eyes to past injustices but the burdens themselves, from the past, are never truly gone, forgotten, or taken away.

History and travel of the main character are tied together with the force of the Tribunal. The Tribunal wishes the main character to travel and strip away his history and so he does. However, the travel the main character incurs is itself in search for the history. The history being that of his family and the past life they shared together. History and force may affect travel but nonetheless the experiences are that of the individual alone.

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