Tuesday, April 14, 2009

For me, Michele Duval represents the most alienated of the first 100. This French semiotician is homesick as he is the only of the first settlers to arrive in Mars precisely because he anticipates the emotional and psychological adjustments necessary for the transition. Also, Duval who participates out of a sense of intellectual responsibility that clearly conflicts with his personal motives. In Duval's mind, he arrives on Mars to "ameliorate the potential social and psychological dysfunction created through the election process" (White 579). Duval's attempt to classify the first 100 according to "stucturalist alchemy" of humours seems to be an oversimplified attempt to explain the realities of [trans]globalization that seems to be the underlying theme in Red Mars (Robinson 391).

It is in this context that we see Frank Chalmers wheeling and dealing his way through the politics of Mars. Now that I've completed the novel I can better relate to the Nixon-Kennedy/ Chalmers-Boone comparison, especially when we see how the two men relate to the opposite sex. For Boone, every performance is a heroic one. Even when he is engaged in sexual intercourse he is simultaneously piloting an airplane (294). Way to multitask, Boone.

This is an interesting malthusian turn considering the "draconian birth reduction acts" in the industrialized back on planet Earth coupled by the booming birth rates in the underdeveloped nations of Earth due to the lack of access to reproductive technologies. Population control and the equitable distribution of resources becomes an issue of greater and greater concern as the terraformation process continues. Indeed, the browning of humanity becomes a matter of extraplanetary concern as the following passage reveals:

"And living with the Arabs sharpened his sense of how alien they were too. Oh, they were part of the twenty-first century humanity, no doubt about it; they were sophisticated scientists and technicians, cocooned like everyone else in a protective shell of technology at every moment of their lives, and busy making and watching their own life movies. And yet they prayed three to six times a day, bowing toward Earth when it was the morning or evening star. And the reason their techno-caravans gave them such great and obviouse pleasure was because the caravans were an outward manifestation of this bending of the modern world to their ancient goals."

This bending represents the same concern for Chalmers as it does for Henry Kissinger. Somehow, even in the setting of outerspace, Euro-earthlings cannot seem to conceive of a future in which they are not in charge or piloting the ship, so to speak. Even when Chalmers contemplates the desert-like landscape of Mars, he seems to harbor bit of a resentment towards the Arabs for being more acclimated to the dry, arid environment.

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