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"Arc of the Rainforest"

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Through the Arc of the Rainforest is a parody of humorous apocalyptic and adventurous signals that brings familiar realities to the logical tremendous in a world that is frightening. The novel features on the flawed development that happens in the Amazon forest which in turn leads to the destruction of the forest as a result of the ostentatious development scheme. The story revolves around migrations and transfers of characters between Latin American, United States and Japan and the discovery of unidentified treasure in the middle of the Amazon forest. The protagonist of the story, Kazumasa, a Japanese emigrant, has been yoked to a tiny ball since his childhood (Yamashita 4). The ball spins continuously over his head and it has the ability to detect the metallic treasure in the forest but also makes him vulnerable to kidnappers. Other characters include a Brazilian couple who breed pigeons, an evangelist, a rubber taper, an American entrepreneur with three eyes and a French ornithologist with three breasts. This bestiary however appears like shadow marionettes in the misguided boom-and-rape of the forest, supervised by J.B, the three-armed entrepreneur. An apocalyptic conclusion develops when the substance underlying the Amazon forest, Matacao, is discovered to be a non-degradable substance buried beneath every part that is polluted, and everything that is made out of it is consumed as hysterically as it was produced (Yamashita 202). The story comes to an end when all its treasure has been destabilized, all projects and universal connectedness turned down as a result, regardless to mention the deaths of the characters and the populace.

Throughout the story, the author uses both characters and events to bring out the plot and eventually the themes. Several concepts are illustrated in this novel and some of them include the concepts of development, loss and return. The author develops the plot of the story in such a way it flows like arc where a climax is reached when everything that the characters have achieved is brought down in a hysterically way just as the way it was gained (Yamashita 198). In the concept of development, the author uses the Matacao treasure to develop the entire society. The Matacao is first notices by the locals but have no use of it since it is made up of hard rock that can not be extracted nor wells can be drilled on it. When the residents, such as J.B. Tweep, discover that Kazumasa’s ball has some magnetic pull towards the Matacao, Kazumasa becomes their target since they all want to use his ball to discover new fields consisting of this substance (Yamashita 23). As a result, Tweep and other investors become attracted to the knowledge and wealth connected to this substance and several projects are established. These projects in the beginning result to a massive explosion of corporate and commercial development of the area which soon takes an international reputation. For instance, Tania and Batista start a business of breeding pigeons which eventual grows to become an international conglomerate, Chico Paco, the Brazilian becomes a religious leader in the society and conquests a radio station through which he broadcasts and encourage his followers across the country. Mane Pena on the other hand becomes a famous author of books and other literal materials (Yamashita 45-56). Within no time, the whole world become accessible since there is connectedness, globalization, communication is made easier through the pigeons, and businesses boom as well.    

Once the development of this small world has climaxed, the author introduces the concept of loss. There is the loss of innocence, love, property and life, and cultural values. While the characters had successfully developed their small world, by discovering the treasure in the hard stone and start enjoying its fruits, a sudden down fall strikes the area and the whole world comes plummeting down before their helpless eyes. As the various projects associated to the Matacao become nationally and internationally, a shadowy side of the economic internationalization begins to manifest. There is progressive isolation in emotional and social lives of most of the characters; characters lose their innocence and attachment to their families as a result of covetousness for more wealth. Almost all the main characters are detached from their families in search for more money and eventually suffer loneliness (Yamashita 168). For instance, Chico Paco becomes increasingly separated from his family which he left on the northeast because he is too busy with his religious work and Mane Pane spends little time with his family since he constantly travels to international conferences and appears on TV to make announcements (Yamashita 48). Kazumasa, under the captivity of Tweep, is alienated from his house helper while Djapan is separated from his wife who is on constant travel in expanding their business. All these characters are thus imprisoned by loneliness that has resulted from globalization. It is only Tweep who is in temporary happiness with his three-breasted wife. However, this loneliness does not only arise from the characters’ separation from their loved ones and their home countries but also from the fact that their land has lost its meaning and has turned out to consist of garbage.

Another thing that is lost in the story is the value and beauty of the forest and everything that came into existence as a result of the discovery of the Matacao. As these projects nourish and every one struggles to become the richest, every hope that is attached to the Matacao comes into an abrupt end. It started with the features that were used as curative devices; they turned out to have fantasizing effects on some of the characters and most of them ended up committing suicide thinking that they have the aptitude to soar (Yamashita 182).  Then another epidemic, typhus, caused by actual feathers spreads across the country killing thousands of the populace. And eventually, the Matacao becomes vulnerable to some kind of bacteria which destabilize it and turns to dust. As a result, everything made from it, including buildings, collapses and the economy of the country is brought down. Thus the loneliness portrayed is not only social, cultural and psychological but of the ecological circumstances where the individuals and the community at large experience deterioration of their immediate surroundings. The loss of life comes along with the epidemics and the catastrophe. Mane Pena together with his family dies from typhus, Chico Paco is mistaken for Kazumasa and killed by Kazumasa’s headhunters (Yamashita 208) while Tweep commits suicide.

We also find that while the major participating country is the United States, the main setting of the story focuses on the Matacao, a fantasy basin in the Amazon forest. This setting functions more or less like the American western border during the nineteenth century. The only difference is the colonial agents are derived from both Europe and the Pacific Rim. Brazil thus finds itself permeated by economic and cultural value of United States and loses its own in the process. Several companies are established including the New York mining firm which facilitates the mining of plastics in the region, tourists and entertainers visit the place and introduce new culture to the locals thus diluting the existing culture (Yamashita 48-79). There is also the Japanese immigrant, who together with his cousin, move across the country thus transforming the local culture with theirs. Therefore, the author uses the devastation of the Amazon’s Matacao as a parable to show how the U.S. has instituted its culture into the other countries. Thus the culture of Brazil becomes mixed and in the long run, the original culture is lost and the innocence of the residents as well.

Towards the end of the story, the author presents a mixture of happenings that brings the novel to a happy ending and the return/restoration of everything that was lost. The epidemic and the Matacao catastrophe kill most of the people and main characters especially those that had brutally taken control of the land (Yamashita 197). Only Batista, Tania, Lourdes and Kazumasa are left and reunite in the end of the novel and live like one happy family. As a result, global connectedness and its consequential loneliness come to an end and characters are happy once again.  The soils that resulted from the destabilization of the Matacao cover the whole area and as a result, the land that was once useless due to its unproductiveness becomes very fertile and plants sprout from it. This is illustrated when the author mentions about the fields filled with tropical fruits, plantations of sugarcane and pineapples, coffee and vines as well as when she pictures Lourdes and Kazumasa picking mangoes and avocadoes (Yamashita 211). The forest becomes green again and its natural look is returned.

Generally, this progression of events has both objective and subjective meanings. The objective or surface meaning of the progression is how the Amazon forest grows from just a mere place that the residents have not found its use because of the hard rock that limits them to do any activity such as cultivation or drilling bore holes, to a well developed place that attracts the whole world, collapsing of the projects and globalization, and finally the rejuvenation of the forest (Yamashita 205). The subjective meaning of the progress focuses on the progress and development of the third world country, Brazil for this matter. The author focuses on how the nation grows economically out of its natural resources that are discovered in the forest. Before the discovery of these resources, only the natives used to live in the place and took great care of the forest. The transfer and migration of people between Latin America, United States and Japan drew in multiculturalism and techno-postmodernism that reigned during the 1980s. When this group of migrants reaches their destination, they are filled with greedy and everyone tries to accumulate as much wealth as s/he can. The author wants to illustrate the economical and socio-cultural harm portrayed by the characters. Tweep’s supremacy and brutal invasion of Brazil and the Djapans’ business progress create an image of stereotypic greedy and cruel multinational. This pictures the third world country as a vulnerable casualty of American entrepreneurship (Yamashita 64).

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