Critical Thinking Sample: Los Angeles

Part I Anthology

Unfolding the True State of Life in Los Angeles

Preface

The city of Hispaniads, the city of movie and music stars, the entertainment hub, the city of lackadaisical living, one that lacks cultural heritage, but yet, one that boasts over 300 museums and the dream-home of many immigrants. Such has been the portrayal of Los Angeles. A city that most critics say it is deficient of a cultural depth but again one where people yearn to see the beauty of Hollywood, good living, and the embodiment of multiculturalism. With the kind of portrayal and fabricated perceptions regarding Los Angeles, this anthology seeks to unearth the true status of the city, the cultural reality, a home of great writers and flourishing literature.

The theme that cuts across this anthology is cultural diversity. Cultural diversity should be a fundamental attribute of a society where plurality enables sharing of each other’s cultural aspect for the betterment of society. A vivid assessment has been done regarding the extent to which Los Angeles cultural diversity has done more good than harm to the city. In the level of superficial assessment, what throngs in the perceptions of many is being an entertainment hub. However, the entertainment that Los Angeles is only associated with is music and movies, a stance that conceals the cultural depth, the rich literary heritage, creativity, and the species of new generation of writers that mark life in this misconstrued city. The anthology explores the various perceptions about Los Angeles and unravels some of the myths by providing a clear picture about the city using 10 texts. Certain quotations and commentaries have been selected from the texts for analysis, in an endeavor to articulate the true state of affairs regarding the city of Los Angeles. The voice of the anthology entwines both literary and factual textual representation transverse the 10 literatures. As found in the anthology, not only music and videos that mark life in Los Angeles, but also a presence of rich culture and literature rooted in the diversity, which is depicted by the selected quotes.

1. James M. Cain, “Mildred Pierce”

“Wash out, then, the land of sunshine, fruit, and flowers. All these are here, but not with the lush, verdant fragrance that you have probably imagined. A celebrated movie comedian is credited with the remark that ‘the flowers don’t smell and the women do’, but in my observation nothing smells. Wash out the girl with the red cheeks peeping coyly from behind a spray of orange leaves. The girl is here, but the dry air has taken the red out of her cheeks; the orange trees are here, but they don’t look that way: the whole picture has too much pep, life, and moisture in it.” (p. 108)

In this paragraph, James M. Cain presents a pictorial view of how life appears to be in Los Angeles. Firstly, the author says that comedians are credited by the saying the flowers do not smell but women do. This indicates the kind of life where women are believed to be living high life with scents in the streets than those of flowers. Furthermore, the environment portrayed seems fresh and fertile with an indication of orange trees that are full of flowers. Cain writes that People actually over imagine the state of beauty in Los Angeles, and this is why the author is saying that all this beauty is present in Los Angeles but not with same fragrance that people often imagine. When people go to Los Angeles, they expect to find easy life, which is not the case. They face cruelty, weakness and hatred in some cases. However, those who keep fighting end up winners and achieving their goals. In Los Angeles, things are not easy but one has to struggle to achieve their goals.

2. James M.Cain, “Mildred Pierce”

“Veda began it, but when she finished it, or whether she finished it, Mildred never quite knew. Little quivers went through her and they kept going through her the rest of the night, during the supper party when Vedas sat with the scarf wound around her throat during the brief half hour, while she undressed Veda, and put the costume away; in the dark, while she lay there alone, trying to sleep, not wanting to sleep.” (p. 188)

In the first quote, we can see Cain depicting the kind of beauty that is believed to be in Los Angeles, particularly focusing in women. In this quote, Cain equally indicates that Los Angeles is a city of partying. The purpose of using these two quotes from Cain is to show the reader of this anthology how people perceive life in Los Angeles, with beauty, partying, and fragrance. It is essential to indicate that the immigration laws in Los Angeles are considerably strict and most people who fail to be allowed to migrate to Los Angeles often propagate a wrong picture of the city, perhaps because of the presence of Hollywood.

3. Karen Yamashita, Tropic of Orange

“Gabriel had actually brought this tree from riverside eight years ago. It was a navel orange tree, maybe the descendant of the original trees first brought to California from Brazil in 1873 and planted by L.C. Tibbets. This was the sort of historic detail Gabriel liked. Bringing an orange tree…from riverside, California to his place near Mazatian was a significant act of some sort. Gabriel had taken some pains to plant the trees as a marker – to mark the tropic of cancer.” (p. 11)

To connect James M. Cain with Karen Yamashita, the latter projected the perceived lifestyle in Los Angeles, with beauty of women of color being at the center of the author’s explication. However, in Yamashita, actually the novel indicates that literature offers a new way of looking at environmental justice, through visual images and metaphors, not solely through the prism of statistics. This new way of looking references the real problems of communities struggling against environmental racism, and is simultaneously liberated from providing a strictly documentary account of the contemporary world. In the context of this quote, Yamashita sets the novel along the highways, highlighting the topography and the geography of neo-liberalism. In particular, women’s bodies and labor are central to the new global economy and are targeted by acts of symbolic and actual violence. Yamashita reveals that women of color along with transportation networks embody how production and consumption work through the flow of goods, garbage, and people in an era of intensified free trade.

4. Karen Tei Yamashita, “Tropic of Orange”

“The heart of slipstream is an attitude of peculiar aggression against reality. These are fantasies of a kind, but not fantasies, which are futuristic, or beyond the fields, we know. These books tend to sarcastically tear at the structure of everyday life…No single imagination is wild or crass or cheesy enough to compete with the collective mindlessness that propels our fascination forward.” (p. 210)

In this quote, Yamashita explains how fantasies characterize most of the books written about Los Angeles, sarcastically tearing the structure of everyday life in this city. Yamashita indicates that most people who go to Los Angeles work hard to make a living. At the end, the hard work becomes competition within communities, which makes life even harder. People in Los Angeles should struggle to make a living and not to compete. However, if the competition is health then they should adopt it. Otherwise, they should not compete since the losers might not take it light. The paragraph can be compared to the kind of life some people face while in Los Angeles. In the paragraph, Rodriguez says that all he does is to work for a living. All his life he has earned little money and he says the money is for his children. It shows the struggles that he goes through every day and can be compared by to people who live in Los Angeles. The unlucky ones have to go through the same situation to make ends meet. In this paragraph, Los Angeles is described as the best place to be. Anyone who goes to Los Angeles feels at home since the place offers everything for the different cultures that we have. However, though the place is has people from all cultures, the same people get discriminated by people who feel to be superior that the rest.
This creates conflits within the community since the discrimanted parties do not receive important services they are entitled to. James M.Cains in this paragraph argues that people were used to living under complexity not only under daughter-mother relationship, but on racial grounds. This is compared to life in Los Angeles where people have to go through hardship in relationships.

5. Yxta Maya Murray, “Locas”

“There are challenges and joys to be had in the law, and Los Angeles is one of the most vibrant places to begin your life as a lawyer; now more than ever. I look forward to the great learning and invigorating criticism that will take place.” (p. 81)

In this paragraph, Murray talks of the competition that is in Los Angeles. People from different races are competing to outsmart the other. This kind of competition is not healthy since it makes people to prioritize their own group. The group that is weak with no resources end up being miserable and some are killed by the powerful group. According to Murray, Mexican had various similarities though the similarities do not unite them. Just like in Los Angeles, the groups in the paragraph cannot accept to live with each other therefore causing more conflicts.

6. Yxta Maya Murray, “Locas”

“Me and Mami and Papi dreamed about the States all the time. We would do anything to be like los Americanos. So we paid all our money to a coyote and he zoomed us over nice and quick. I was just a baby girl then but I still remember, the night was black and Mami held me up in her arms and we ran fast, just like he told us to. It was the getting over part that was easiest, though. You think it’s gonna be all sunshine when you get to pretty California, right?” (p.143)

In life one does not always get what they want. That is the same situation in Los Angeles. However, even though one does not get what they want, they can always look for what favors them and work with it. Any one going to Los Angeles and find that life is not a bed of roses, then they deal with the situation though it miht not be easy. The truth is no matter how hard, one should never give excuses or run away from reality in Los Angeles. This experience can be compared to Lucia who is from Mexican. When she gets to Los Angeles she goes through so much difficulties in order to survive the harsh life in the city.

7. Luiz Rodriguez, “The Republic of East L.A”

“It never stopped, this running. We were constant prey, and the hunters soon became big blurs: the police, the gangs, the junkies, the dudes on Boulevard who took our money, all smudged into one. Sometimes they were teachers who jumped on us Mexicans as if they were born with hideous stain. We were always afraid.” She had to survive being cast into a peculiar universe of neon and noise. This was a place where winos and the homeless resided on the sidewalk, where women sold themselves for sex to eat or get stoned, and where people on city buses never say anything to you unless they happen to be drunk or crazy.” (p.229)

The kinds of gangs described by Rodriguez were rampaging in L.A. which exhorted money from them. This shows how much people in the city have to struggle to make ends meets. People go to LA looking for a brighter future and easy life however, that is not the case. However the case of the immigrant woman who has to give up her dignity by having sex to survive is not one of those things that happens in Los Angeles. This is because in the paragraph Rodriguez describes the city as a peculiar universe full of noise and neon. This means that the city is full of glamour and challenge though it does not go that extend. Just like Yamashita, Rodriguez talks of the complexicity within the city where people have to face harsh reality to get common things like food and money…”

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