Violence is a theme that is extensively dealt with in the book From here You can almost See the End of the Dessert by Aaron Morales. The subject, however, is only presented as a man’s problem which promotes the stereotype that violence is perpetuated by men alone. This can be seen in that all those who perpetuate violence in the three stories are men. The subjects who are on the receiving end of the violence may not all be women, but those attacked are definitely weaker than their attackers. The perpetuation of the idea that men are mostly violent creatures and the depiction of an extremely violent world are not resonant with the real society. Though it may be argued that the authors have the right to depict the world as they see fit to achieve their goal, the exaggeration of violence does not help us realize its implications since we cannot easily relate the work with the real world. The work becomes a sort of entertaining fiction that does not apply to our every day issues since it desensitizes rather than instructs on the implications of violence in society.
Violence, it can be argued, is often the product of testosterone but this does not mean that men are its only perpetuators. Women have also been seen to be violent and therefore this leads to the alienation of the stories from the real world. Art should be a reflection of society and should provide instructing and insightful views into human nature. However, by exaggeration, the stories achieve the opposite since they depict men as the only culprits in the perpetuation of violence, they depict a fictionalized view of society that does not instruct or provide insights into human nature.
Though through exaggeration art may place stress on a given subject, this is not possible for violence since it produces desensitization rather than posing questions about the subject that could produce positive results in society. By painting the world as dark and full of woe, the stories deviate from the real image of the world which also has another side to it – the sunny and happy side. Therefore, the stories lack the ability to mirror society which would in turn enable the reader to relate and learn from it. This picture of the world could also prove depressing to the reader which could be deviating to the reader from having an objective look into the subject. Therefore, if the objective of the stories is to sensitize on the subject of violence, which it clearly is, the objective is not met.
In this age in which the individual is exposed to a lot of violence in the media and from other sources such as video games, books should be the source of hope, advice and instruction. This is especially true for the youth who are very vulnerable and can translate what they see and hear in the media -and now read in the books- into violent activities. Society becomes conditioned by whatever is put through the senses and therefore a constant input of violence could prove detrimental. Therefore, books, rather than mirror what is depicted in the media, should provide an insight into subjects and provide viable solutions to those problems experienced by society. Since books can be said to be one of the last frontiers in which morality and true scholarship go on largely unaffected by other trivial subjects, the books should have a responsibility towards providing social commentary that is useful.
Violence is also illustrated as the answer to problems which it is not. When a woman is abused by her husband and sees no meaning in life she results to violence-drowning her baby. The depiction of violence against the baby as an act of love, perhaps because it will grow into being abusive as is its father, does not bring about any lesson for the reader. Through violence, a boy seeks to resolve the issue of his not having discovered a golden egg first. This portrayal does not rhyme with real life since solutions can actually be arrived at without violence. Therefore, the stories do not instruct but rather show solutions that are not applicable or which would be harmful if applied. It could be said that by showing the consequences of violence to be adverse the stories achieve the goal of warning society against it. However, the position that violence is always answered with violence is not true.
The depiction of violence and the lack of punishment for the vice are clearly visible in the book. Due to the lack of means through which the culprits are punished, the book is not able to put through the fact that violence does not pay; but the stories only manage to depress the reader. This can be illustrated by the woman who is abused by her husband but who only manages to run away and perform other acts of savagely. The fact that the sheriff in the story where a boy is attacked with a chain link claims that the boy has had an accident further illustrates the point. The fact that the crimes are not punished could bring about an image of a society in which violence rife and acceptable which would be untrue.
The only story that could give a little hope is the one about the gay couple though this is a token in the midst of the depressive nature of the others. The stories in the book are therefore ineffective in achieving empowerment of the readers or the provision of hope for them. The world, it can be argued, has its dark passages and therefore it is essential that books be light and they should provide hope and meaning to life rather than dwell on the evils and cruelties of the world. Though it can be said that portrayal of these dark passages help people to understand themselves better and shed light on the darker nature of humans, their depiction without consequences and punishment poses questions on the objectives of the writer.
If the issue of violence it to be dealt with properly in books, the subject has to be realistic so as to be effective in its effect on the reader. Books should have a purpose which is often the education of the reader rather than pure entertainment and therefore they should not be pulled into popular culture where media are produced purely for entertainment’s sake.
Morales, A. From Here You Can Almost See the End of the Desert. Notre Dame, IN: Momotombo, 2008