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Trash - A Novel About The World's Flaws



The World

The World

Novels can provide an insight into another person’s life and the flawed world that they live in, whilst additionally regaling the reader. The novel, Trash, by Andy Mulligan, tells the tale of three boys - Raphael, Gardo and Rat - who live in a third-world, dumpsite town, named Behala. They make a living by rummaging through rubbish and selling what they find. The boys find a handbag encasing a key, a substantial measure of cash and other various clues that help guide the boys to find a million dollars and uncover a political scandal that has the corrupt police of Behala relentlessly pursuing them. As a result of the predicaments that occur, the boys are compelled to confront their trepidations, which in turn become catalysts for them, causing them to develop and demonstrate their strengths. Trash, provides a strong insight into the context of many third world countries and makes evident the flaws that these societies share with the rest of humanity and the subsequent consequences of these imperfections. In the novel, the saddening, realistic representation of poverty in the world is depicted through the setting of Behala; human strength is demonstrated by the care and compassion of mission school teacher, Olivia; police disreputability and brutality is demonstrated through Raphael’s 1stperson point of view narration, and lastly the condemnable greed of humans is made evident through the characterisation of avaricious, Vice-President Zapanta, who is known to use other people’s money for his own benefit. By reading this literary text, we begin to learn of the inherent flaws of our world but are also inspired by the courage and moral integrity of those who refuse to be constricted by their social position.

Parity of class is a yearning of many, yet it is impracticable by reason of human avarice and venality. Andy Mulligan has made settings come to life that are symbolic of the socioeconomic divide limiting the impecunious poor and empowering the wealthy. Mulligan has astutely juxtaposed a multitude of diverse settings to condemn the social inequity characteristic of many 3rd world societies. Readers are exposed to the inordinate affluence of the wealthy and the penury of those who live in Behala. In the opening of the novel, Raphael introduces his home town, Behala, and describes it as a place full of trash with “piles and piles of it, and it all ends up here with us.” Raphael even states that because “the piles [of trash] stack up,” the dumpsite is the “Himalayas”. He then goes on to vocalise that he is a rubbish boy and spends his days “picking through the stuff the city throws away,” just to survive. The repetition of ‘piles and piles’ of rubbish and the fact that people live amongst this trash is symbolic of the world’s excessive wastefulness. The metaphor of the Himalayas conjures a vivid image of the immense vastness of the revolting dumpsites in Behala. It also makes us think of humankind’s wasteful materialistic nature, which sadly in turn causes environmental degradation, which is deleterious to us all. This paradoxical metaphor also suggests that these conditions of humongous piles of rubbish are not natural. This is because a majority of the trash is manmade, processed materials, whilst the Himalayas are naturally occurring. Clearly a juxtaposed statement, Mulligan is condemning humankind’s flaws. Lastly, the act of scavenging through the rubbish that the city of Behala throws away shows that one man’s trash can truly be another man’s treasure, which in turn comments on the discrepancy and divide between the rich and poor in the world, and also brings attention to the consumerism and wastefulness of the wealthy in contrast to the pauperdom and hopelessness of the poor. Furthermore, when Raphael, Gardo and Rat are in the cemetery looking for Pia’s “grave” during the festival of the dead, they begin “amongst the wealthy people [who were] in very fancy clothes, and felt even grayer and dirtier”. They realise that, “no one seemed to see us, like we were the ghosts.” The juxtaposition between the clothing of the rich and poor demonstrates just how large the divide between the wealthy and poor is. The simile likening the poor to ‘ghosts’ explores how those who are poverty-stricken are deemed unimportant and are ignored by the egocentric upper-class, who fail to acknowledge the poor’s existence or humanity in the world. Lastly, the disturbing imagery of the poor’s final resting place, where “old bones are thrown and left to rot amongst the trash” demonstrates that even after death, the lower-class continue to be dehumanised. In utter contrast the human strengths of compassion, kindness and charitableness towards those in need is demonstrated by a mission school teacher, named Olivia. Whilst teaching at the Pascal Aguila Mission School, in Behala, Olivia narrates on a setting of a charitable environment and says that, “I think charity work is the most seductive thing in the world… for the first time in your life your surrounded by the people who tell you you’re making a difference.” Through this 1st person narration of Olivia, it is made evident that charitable attitudes are foregrounded and celebrated. Olivia is generous, selfless and finds joy in helping those less fortunate than her. Olivia further goes on to narrate that, “The Behala children are beautiful, and to see them on the rubbish tips all day can break your heart.” Olivia’s description of the dirty Behala children as ‘beautiful’ in a setting of rubbish shows her egalitarian ideology; she respects their dignity and humanity. The settings in the novel, Trash, collate to bring forward the imperfections of societies that have oppressive economic divides and makes evident just how wrong it is for people to live in an abundance of wealth whilst others lead lives with nothing to hold to their name. These settings also bring forward the world’s strengths and fortitude causing readers to feel not only vexation at the world we live in for being so unjust, but also gratified for having such kind human beings in our inequality filled world.

In our Western society, the police endeavour to stop violence and corruption and are figures of integrity who fight to uphold justice. A completely different view of police in third-world countries is made clear in the novel through the point of view of characters who have encountered the shameful debasement and savagery of the corrupt police up close and personal. Through the perspective of several characters, Mulligan draws attention to the flaw of police corruption and brutality of third-world nations. After Raphael is released from the police station, he tells Gardo of the brutal events that transpired during the interrogation, and Gardo “knew if we were taken, none of us would come out of there.” Gardo knew that he “would die before I let them take me or the others”. The fact that Gardo, a mere child, knew that if he and his friends were to be taken, they would be killed, demonstrates just how widely spread the corruption of the police in Behala is, and shows it is so common that all are desensitised to it, including the government, which is seemingly degenerate also. The police's willingness to murder human beings displays that they don’t value the poor and consider them to be nothing, just the collateral damage of their dirty work to be dumped like they are useless heaps of garbage. Mulligan criticises the police, who are supposedly paid to deliver justice, yet do the complete opposite. Furthermore, Father Julliard, a minister who is an educator at a mission school in Behala, offers an insight to what happened to Pascal Aguila, a freedom fighter, through his point of view, as he shares with readers his knowledge that, “the one act that killed him - was to expose three senators who’d been siphoning off public taxes.” The government and police despised this and, subsequently, “Pascal was shot to pieces in a taxi, on his way to testify” against the senators. Pascal was shot twenty-six times with “the same calibre as a policeman’s gun, and his murders were never found.” Father Julliard remarks on social issues from an ethical and religious stance that readers can trust. We discover that the police don't battle corruption, but rather help to cover it up. We learn that those who fight for justice are silenced by the means of police brutality and violence. Through Father Julliard and the murder of Pascal, we learn that the government is corrupted and the police are complicit. The fact that Pascal was shot twenty-six times with a policeman’s gun, and who ever did it was never caught, shows that the government and police work together to annihilate anyone who tries to bring justice to the corrupt third-world countries, leaving the poor vulnerable an defenceless. The points of view of the characters in this novel all collate to bring forward the notion of the government and police’s corruption and violence in certain regions of the world. These perspectives also describe how the common people of these regions have to suffer because of this unlawful corruption. The readers are positioned to feel ashamed that we, as human beings, have to live in a world filled with such depravity.

Trash Novel Cover

Trash Novel Cover

Greed is a condemnable characteristic of many that is the said to be the root of all evil. Andy Mulligan has characterised wealthy and poor characters as binary opposites to give readers the image of greed and its effects on the world. We are presented with characters living in a third-world community, full of evil, covetous people, who would go to any length to feed their greed. Olivia, an ex teacher at the Pascal Aguila mission school, “learned the world revolves around money.” She knows that in the world “there are values and virtues and morals; there are relationships and trust and love,” which are all important. “Money, however, is more important”. The stark contrast and juxtaposition of money and morals suggests that money is more important to people than morality, which then further goes to propose that our cultural priorities in the world are misplaced. Olivia then goes on to narrate that money is “like precious water. Some drink deep; others thirst.” The simile comparing cash to precious water suggests that money is a key component in survival; without it, you suffer. It also insinuates the extent of its shortage, which reflects on the world’s social stratification, meaning that wealth only lands in the pockets of a small minority, of which many may or may not deserve it, making it quite unjust to the common population. Through juxtaposition, the so called “thirst” of the poor, contrasted to the rich who “drink deep” reveals that our social class unfairly determines our access to means of survival. Lastly, Olivia then goes own to demonstrate that she knows that in a greedy world “the absence of money is a drought in which nothing can grow.” The metaphor of a ‘drought,’ which refers to a lack of money, suggests that without a substantial amount of cash you cannot flourish or grow to rise above your circumstances and conditions. Furthermore, several newspaper articles were written after ten million dollars was stolen from Vice-President Zapanta. These articles vividly characterised the vice-president as avaricious, claiming he was “either not paying [his] taxes, or stealing other people’s” money. It is also said that the vice-president has “the most questionable conscience and the blackest heart,” and he also has “spent more that three years lining his pockets, and his main achievement is that he’s made the country’s poor feel worthless and powerless.” Through the characterisation of Vice-President Zapanta in these newspaper articles, we learn of his intense greed and how it has damaged the community around him. Having ten million dollars stashed away shows his money-hungry nature and that he would do anything to keep feeding this need. Siphoning from the public's tax money is what makes this so horrible, as this act impoverishes the poor to a greater extent making them feel worthless and furthers their lack of means to survive. The metaphor of how he has the ‘blackest heart’ demonstrates that he is full of greed at heart, with the colour black having connotations of evil. Through the characterisation of different characters in this narrative, we begin to learn of catastrophic damage greed has done to the world we live in. The notion of how money is such a strong influence on life encourages the audience of this novel to feel furious at the world we live in and also the majority of people who base their lives around superficial acquisition and wealth.

Through Andy Mulligan’s novel, Trash, we gain knowledge of the kinds of flaws that are apparent in the world we live in, including poverty, greed, police corruption and brutality. There are obviously not only flaws in our world, but strengths as well. Without flaws in our world, we would not be able to grow as people and learn to cope in unfortunate situations. Our world’s poverty is demonstrated through the sickening settings of Behala, where many people have nothing at all and struggle to survive. The world’s strengths are demonstrated through Olivia’s 1st person narration on the poverty filled settings. Police corruption and brutality is made evident through the point of view of Gardo when Raphael tells him what occurred inside the police station. Not only that, but the flaws of the government are made clear when we learn of their association with the unjust police. Lastly the greed of the world is shown through the characterisation of Vice-President Zapata and an ex mission school teacher, Olivia. All of these flaws show just how imperfect the world we live in is. This novel offers an eye opening insight into the real defects of our world in the context of a third-world country.

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Aastha Chandankar from Mumbai on April 28, 2020:

It was really helpful! Thank you.

Rose McCoy on April 18, 2020:

This book was really eye-opening when I read it—it’s heartbreaking that people have to go through that kind of poverty, especially kids.

Alhaji Mustapha medi on March 19, 2020:

Hello, thanks to u all,especially d boys make me think so far.

James on May 19, 2016:

Thanks so much! This article was so helpful for my extended response in my english assignment for high school!

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