Jim’s Adventures Abroad
Much of this book revolves around Jim and his own problems, but his travels bring him an understanding of the world he lives in. Jim seems to be raised in a considerably “normal” American household; Mom stays at home while Dad goes to work at a pretty well paying job. We don’t hear of any siblings, so we can assume Jim was an only child who was well taken care of, at least financially. In chapters 44 and 45, Jim goes on a trip to several different countries and continents. While in Cairo, Jim goes out for a drink and stumbles across a street with several beggars (230). He’s never seen anyone or anything like this. It shakes him so much, it takes his breath away. He can’t even begin to say how it makes him feel, he can only distinguish that he’s never felt this feeling before (231).
Jim’s experience reminds me a lot of my experience while on a trip to Europe (Austria, Switzerland, and Germany). In most of the cities we were in, we saw little or no of the “real world”, as Jim puts it (231). We stopped for a few hours in Zürich, Switzerland and were allowed to walk around by ourselves. I partnered up with a few friends and we went all around the city center. To get from one side of town to the other, there was a bridge where hundreds of people walked every day. The bridge was one of the love-lock bridge (a couple would write their names on a lock, lock it onto the bridge, and throw the key in the water, as a symbol of unbreakable love). There was so many beggars up and down the bridge, but no one would even bat an eye at them. People would go right past them to go spend hundreds of Euros on locks, chocolates, cheeses, and T-shirts, but couldn’t drop even fifty cents in a little old woman’s mug. They want to proclaim their love for their partner, but can’t show any love or compassion to another human being. They want to ignore the problems that are right in front of their face. Jim tells the group the next morning “Let’s leave. I don’t like it here” (231). I think this is how a lot of the world deals with poverty; they don’t look at it, pretend it doesn’t exist, and goes on with their lives.
Robinson, Kim Stanley. The Gold Coast. New York, Tom Doherty Associates, Inc., 1988.