The Treacherously Inspiring Lights of Los Angeles
English and Literature
Submitted By shiva2000
The Treacherously Inspiring Lights of Los Angeles
Los Angeles has always been deemed as a promising paradise that draws many people from across the world to come in order to fulfil their American dreams. Pulled by its delightful glittering lights, many have been lured to find their luck and fate in the city only to be betrayed in the end. People of varying age, gender, ethnicity or class are all heading to Los Angeles in the hope of making a better life for themselves and their families. The city of angels has at some point been considered as the foremost sensational destination for juvenile runaways. While all light show signs of promising hope of a better future, not all light turns out to be decent or upright. Many have achieved success in exchange of losing their morals. The lights of Los Angeles are treacherously inspiring. It entices people to do everything for wealth, success and fame sometimes at the expense of selling their soul to city. It light however remains dramatically nostalgic that kept people to stay or come back to home.
Such was the case of the protagonist in William Faulkner’s short story, “Golden Land,” Ira unconsciously traded his morals, family and soul for worldly success in Hollywood. While he exhibited a sense of repulsion on the materialistic culture of Los Angeles, he was nevertheless a progeny of its mores. In this story, Faulkner showed how a man, who hailed from the conformist place like Nebraska, was altered by the “Golden Land” to become a decadent person.
Like many Americans seeking for their fortune in the big city, Ira decided to go to Los Angeles in search of success. He felt rapt in Nebraska, which held him back from pursuing the “American Dream”. However, Los Angeles is an alienating place that is capable of corrupting a person through its natural ambiance and artificial environ. As described by Faulkner, the city can be seen in the “bright soft vague hazy sunlight, random, scattered about the arid earth like so many gay scraps of paper blown without order, with its curious air of being rootless, of houses bright beautiful and gay, without basements or foundations, lightly attached to a few inches of light penetrable earth.. which one good hard rain would wash forever from the sight and memory of man as a firehouse flushes down a gutter.” (Faulkner, p145) By this, Faulkner emphasizes the power of Los Angeles to distort a person to be indifferent from everyone and be selfish. This is what Ira had become. He was a real estate tycoon and a debauched individual, who beats his gay son, frames his daughter as a whore and confines his mother at home yet is rewarded with a trouble-free and guiltless conscience and a woman that personified beauty. Through the character of Ira, Faulkner illustrated how the city of Angels can paradoxically create sinners with wretched human behaviours.
Faulkner sardonic description of Los Angeles as a “Golden Land” insinuates that LA is an overly romanticized place of milk and honey or of greener pastures. It is actually a degenerate society that engenders profligacy and immorality. Its materialistic culture has driven people to do anything for fame and fortune even if that means selling ones soul to the devil. As the city of lights especially because of the bright lights of Hollywood, the city has become a hub for vice and sin. The lights in Los Angeles especially at night are actually the radiance of strip clubs, casinos and bars. Thus, the city lights represented the prevalence of prostitution, infidelity, gambling, drug abuse, and organized crime in the city. Even the Hollywood district which is associated with stardom and celebrities is actually a home for plastic surgery, the porn industry, crime, and pollution.
Yet in spite of this, there is something in the lights of Los Angeles that keeps one from leaving. Ira himself never wanted to return to his hometown even if he finds the city’s self-indulgent lifestyle quite hideous. His mother quite ironically finds solace and tranquillity in Los Angeles. She saw a divine impression of the city where “the sun was high; she could see the water from the sprinkler flashing and glinting in it… the changeless monotonous beautiful days without end, countless out of the halcyon past and endless into the halcyon future” (Faulkner, p151), that prompted her to stay here and live forever. Ira’s mother continuous to see the promising opportunities the city offers to which she puts her faith. These inspiring lights of LA that kept people drawn to it, is also the same light which Lawrence Wechsler continued to long for and that kept him returning to his hometown time and time again. This light which Faulkner described as “treacherous unbrightness” (Faulkner, p136) is the same light that creates a sense of nostalgia that can exert a special hold for Angelinos like Wechsler to come back. Wechsler attributes this to "incredible stability and uncanny stillness of the air around” (Wechsler, p668) that facilitates the famous “thermal inversion” that allow the lights of the city engender a quixotic image of home.
The quality of light in Los Angeles is inspiring. It is one of the most beautiful visions that one can experience better as a feeling rather than just a sight. However, while quality of light can be inspirational to everyone, such promise also casts some risk and potential disaster. The City of Angels is also a city of sinners and one can easily be engrossed with its materialistic culture and hedonistic pleasure. Yet in spite of the gloomy aspect of the city, the lights of Los Angeles continues to promise hope and opportunity as well as nostalgic feeling that kept people to return back to it as its home.
Faulkner, William. “Golden Land.” Writing Los Angeles by David L. Ulin (Ed). USA: Literary Classics of the United States, 2002.
Wechsler, Lawrence. “L.A. Glows.” Writing Los Angeles by David L. Ulin (Ed). USA: Literary Classics of the United States, 2002.