Sunday, February 10, 2008

Nice guys finish last

Jake is employed and married; however, his life is slowly falling apart. After viciously beating his wife, he almost loses his job. Following his close encounter with unemployment, he decides not to alter his self-destructive ways and instead sinks deeper into a pit of irrational and stupid behavior. Stuck in his ways, Jake is incapable of acknowledging that he needs to change his behavior in order to improve his life. However, he refuses to change because he sees no point in changing when he has no bright future awaiting him. As a black man during the depression, he has nowhere to go but down.

Unable to move up in the world, Jake is dissatisfied with his life because his potential has been predetermined. He is a black man; thus, society will allow him to only go so far in life, and instead of challenging the standard, he allows himself to be pigeon holed by what the white population deems him to be. He states how “white folks don’t want us to have nothing” and “if white folks could make us buy the air we breathe they would” (132). Hence, Jake feels powerless and believes his job at the post office is “the best job a black man can get and they don’t even want us here” (132).

Due to his social and economic circumstances, Jake has been molded into a man whose frustrations are expressed by harming others in addition to himself. He engages in gluttonous behavior such as gambling and hitting on prostitutes in hopes that these momentary pleasures will allow him to temporarily forget his unfortunate life. Thus, he becomes addicted to a life of sin because he sees no benefit in pursuing one of righteousness. Why be good when the nice guys always seem to finish last?


Aaron said...

Hah. I agree with your post completely, Jake's struggles are not fair and he cannot control much of the hardships he faces. But do you really think Jake is a nice guy who is just down on his luck? Society absolutely makes his life difficult, but Howard, his black boss at the post office has found success. Also, Jake is so violent and gullible that I cannot say that he is a "nice" guy. He is certainly foolish and unlucky and finishes last, but I do not think that a man who beats his wife and causes the problems he cases deserves to be labeled as a "nice" guy. Good post though, it really shows the social element that beats down on Jake and makes him a sympathetic character.

Erin Sells said...

Jake may think nice guys finish last, but his story probably proves that creeps don't always end up all that well, either (ie, passed out and bloody on the floor). There are too many other oppressive social structures in play to keep any black man at the top in this novel--I doubt Howard would advance much further in his career at the PO--but Jake certainly finds a way (or several) to make a bad situation even worse.

Ruthie Sacks said...

From Jake's actions, one can see he is not a great guy; however, the point that I was trying to get across was that he sees no point in changing or reforming his ways because he doesn't think he has anywhere to go but down due to the fact he is a black man during the depression. So he views no point in engaging in positive behaviors because it won't do much to drastically alter his situation. Although Howard does hold a position in the post office, he is limited in the fact that he most likely can only go so far. You can also see from his interactions with Jake that by gaining that position he may be feeling some pressure to uphold harsher perspective about his own race so others do not view him as biased or overly sympathetic. Thus, in a way he must push himself away from his race in order to prove to his white peers that he is "fair."