All of these books, though unique in their cultural, stylistic, and psychological twists, follow similar themes in their symbolic usage of America. The Americans in Ishiguro seek their missing connection to history, but they unwittingly crush what they touch. Steven's interactions with Americans frame his procession from a condition of nostalgia, to the realization that he must renounce his rigid attachment to the past, and change with his changing environment. His attitude toward banter discloses his obstinate inability to envision realistic steps forward. America in Achebe represents a desperately strong and impersonal external authority, as well as a failed synthesis of cultural currents. Beatrice's seduction of Sam becomes a symbolic act of defiance of the American journalist's powers.
Soyinka, Saro-Wiwa, Rushdie, and Duff have no American characters, but write about the effects of America's commercial presence in postcolonial societies. Soyinka refers to America only in criticism of modernization. He rails against the foreign forces in his country and his countrymen's responses to them. They passively, numbly accept a mindless culture of mass production in substitute for their individuality. Saro-Wiwa models an ideal modern man, one who shapes the flurry of cultural forces around him, sells Coke and flourishes in a distinctly Nigerian style. Rushdie recognizes the appeal and the benefits that of American products, as well as their undeniable role in the modern world. At the same time he labels America a shameless "fat-cat," and warns not to emulate a nation that wins, but cheats. He lets go of anger with the comic torture of the American Ambassadors orchestrated by one of Pakistan's top rascals. Duff's characters make America their fictional dreamland, an escape and an excuse used to avoid taking charge of their own lives.
Suleri lives in America as a foreigner. For her, its lifestyle and its cities are ugly and inhumane. They say nothing to her soul and have cut her off from her family and her past. By deciding to continue life in American exile she exhausts herself to the point of "disembodiment," and finishes with only weak and vague hopes for the future.
In these seven books, America is "modernity as a radical threat to all their history and traditions," but also a promise of endless possibility (Berman, 16). The books' conclusions sustain a hope which lies amidst such conflict and confusion: that a study of a society's struggle to make sense of the cultural currents within it helps to actively shape the future. Success would be to create
a new kind of man÷'the man of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow' -- who standing in opposition to his today' will have the courage and imagination to 'create new values' that modern men and women need to steer their way through the perilous infinities in which they live (Berman, 23).
Berman, Marshall. All That is Solid Melts into Air: the Experience of Modernity. Penguin Books, New York: 1982.
Last Modified: 18 March, 2002