A large problem in most countries. Millions of children around the world sit on street corners each day begging for change, food, and love. Begging for a chance at life. There are two major classifications of poverty, personal and social. Personal poverty, such as the lack of proper food, filthy living conditions, and broken families is at the core of below-standard living. Social poverty is more complex and not as easily recognized, yet it definitely exists. Social poverty is the abuse of power, the corruption of government, and instability of institutions, and prejudice.
Poverty is a problem, yet a problem of even greater importance is pinpointing where poverty commences. Are the traits listed above causes or effects? There are answers to be found in Shiva Naipaul’s A Hot Country and North of South. In both works, which are very different in plot, but similar in theme, novelist Naipaul depicts the fateful and never-ending cycle of poverty and the disastrous effects it has upon society. Poverty is a trap seldom escaped. When the main goal is purely survival, often privileges such as education and opportunity are forgotten.
The mere search for necessities such as water, food, and shelter can become the soul purpose in life, leaving no time for progress or betterment. In A Hot Country, Naipaul chooses a story of a struggling salesman to prove this point. Aubrey St. -Pierre, is dedicated to “the betterment of society” through the educational books that he sells at the Aurora, his bookstore. He claims to only sell works which “provoke thought and kindness”, but in reality there is no one to buy his books. No one has time for betterment.
Dina, Aubrey’s assistant, the first to understand this: There were long periods when she did not have to deal with he rare browsers, nor drunks, nor beggars… when all she did was sit on her stool and stare at the posters and traffic. (Naipaul, Hot,36) Similarly, Naipaul depicts a comparable situation in North of South, only under different conditions. A German tourist notes the impossibility of change for the impoverished Africans: They have so much to learn. Such a long way to go. Not even a hundred years might be enough for them. They need lots and lots of time. I am not sure they will ever get it.
There are too many things buried under the ground for them to be left alone. That is why I am afraid for them. (Naipaul, North 303) These portrayals of poverty acting as a locked door upon the path to progress are in fact a window to the reader. Naipaul proves through his writings and his experiences that once a certain level of poverty is reached change is impossible. That poverty is the enemy of progress. Politically, progress is defined as the forward movement towards a euphoric destination. But reaching this destination is unachievable when there is no pure government or authority to lead the way.
Naipaul relates the reader two similar stories, one in each novel, of two similar presidents and their fights for the abolition of poverty. In A Hot Country, Naipaul shows the raw power a president has over his people, how the followers become brainwashed, and how people lose any hope for progress in the future.
Alex Richter, a foreign journalist, has an eerie conversation with a flight attendant on the subject of her president: A button adorned with a photograph of the Cuyamese President was pinned on the breast of the sarong-clad stewardess who brought him the drink. Who’s that? ‘ Alex asked. She glanced down at her breast. ‘That is our President. A very great man. ‘
‘What makes him a great man? ‘ ‘He is a liberator. ‘ ‘What has he liberated you from? ‘ From colonialism… ‘ (Naipaul,Hot,67) The strange thing is that the President has not liberated her country from anything. The stewardess is answering only by what she has been schooled to believe. The Government has abused their given power and made it’s citizens believe they are doing what’s best for the country. However, in North of South, Naipaul paints a picture of another presidency.
A kind yet aggressive presidency. A presidency which the people of the country respect and admire. The president is Kenneth Kaunda. A man of liberation, freedom, and honesty. “Kaunda was a man, merely a man. With all his force he ried to right our country, tried to set us on the proper track. But even his greatest triumphs failed shamefully. Kaunda, a man, could do no better for the country. His effort had been fruitless. ” (Naipaul, North 327) Both stories prove that government, ironically, often stands in the way of progress, instead of creating it.
Consequently, the trap created by poverty is still in control. Neither society or the government cannot break the painful cycle. The horrid cycle of poverty can never be broken. One would like to believe that after oppression, and lies, and poverty, the story would take a turn for the better. But Naipaul proves to us that fairy tale endings rarely, perhaps never occur when poverty is involved. A very good example is Naipaul’s choice of ending in North of South, and likewise in A Hot Country. Both works end basically the same way they began.
A strong point is made. Naipaul uses the humorous story of desperate people who ambush, gain trust, and then blatantly steal from their so-called friends in the opening paragraph of North of South. Throughout the novel, he tries to get rid of the pesky character, but in the end is unsuccessful: “An African voice spoke close to my ear. Hey Stan! A friend! Look, I found a friend. I told you I got lots and lots of friends… ‘ The voice was familiar. I turned. I saw lank,shoulder length hair, pale blue-gray eyes, wandering and unfocused.
Behind him was a tall, sunburned man, his hair frizzed out into a dark, woolly halo. I fled. ” (Naipaul,North,349) These are the last words in the entire novel. Similarly, Naipaul finishes A Hot Country in the exact same fashion. Dina, now Aubrey’s wife, has had a moment to insight to her poverty-ridden life, and has the idea to break away from it all. Yet, she doesn’t. When they paused and looked at themselves – what did theyfind? Nothing! A void. Darkness. That was all they had, their emptiness,their darkness, their hunger.
They did not have a self, a soul, to call their own. That was what poverty had cheated them out of: selves, souls. Her attention was caught by the boom of a distant loud-speaker, breaking the stillness. She strained to hear what was being said, to extract meaning, But only its frenzy, its orgiastic rage, communicated itself. She walked slowly towards the fluorescent glow of the bookshop. Naipaul,Hot,185) Dina is in the exact same situation as she was at the commencement of the novel.
No progress was made, so the poverty will continue. The cycle of poverty is disastrous. It can ruin lives, families, lovers, and dreams. Poverty is one of the hardest things for a society to overcome because it is part of a giant continuous cycle. Personal and social poverty go hand in hand to demolish all hope of a bright future. Personal poverty strikes when social poverty is at a high, and then neither can fix themselves without the aid of the other. Poverty is continuous. Poverty is a cycle. Poverty is a trap seldom escaped.