All that glitters is not gold. It is what Faulkner wants to show in his short story “Golden Land.” It is a narration about Ira Ewing, a man who has overstepped morality on his way to success after moving to Los Angeles. Faulkner depicts his own view of this city as he moved there in the 1930’s and disliked his time there. The “Golden Land” is a Faulkner’s description of feelings about the place and how it impacts the human behavior. The allegory of the story is in the immorality of the “golden” land. First of all, Ira is an immoral person. Secondly, the image of Los Angeles in the story is an image of the glittering but spoilt city. At last, the people are the representatives of the “consumer culture” but have no attitude to the “traditional” values.
Ira is a son of a traditionally moral woman. This fact, however, does not stop him from being an immoral alcoholic and an adulterer. Even though Los Angeles does not fascinate him, the city “culture” affects him so much that he is not eager to return home to Nebraska. In the beginning of the story, Ira sees in this treeless place a “sum of his father’s and mother’s dead youth” (Faulkner 1). The author underlines the fact the nature greens briefly before the “long-term” snow comes. As a contrast, Los Angeles is the place where the “American Dream” is constantly coming true. Nevertheless, after moving in, not only Ira but also most of the members of his family completely lose their moral value. His children are involved in either the pornography business or the transvestite society. They steal money from the mother’s purse. The worst is that mother does not care even after she finds it out. Only Ira’s mother remains the same. That is why, she is an important character. As the only moral character, she creates the contrast and highlights the depth of the other heroes, places, or events. She cannot understand and accept the lifestyle of the people who surrounds her. Returning to the Ira’s character, to his daughter’s shame, he has said, “she has made her bed; all I can do is to help her up: I can’t wash the sheets. Nobody can” (Faulkner 7). His unbreakable argument is, “you did not choose me when you elected a child; neither did I choose my two” (Faulkner 7). It is not right to claim that the family’s immorality is a city’s fault because they would not become so if they were not so from the beginning. It is just the question of age. Ira, his wife, and children belong to the different generations as compared to his mother. They do not see anything bad in living that way. She, in her turn, thinks about the rules of the decent conduct.
Throughout the “Golden Land”, Los Angeles appears as a place where the morality is a price for success, fame, and wealth. The title of the story is an obvious indication of the general narration tone (Bradford 72). The entire story shows the possible influence of the setting and location on the moral values. As the character of Ira’s mother serves for the highlighting the other family members’ immorality, Nebraska is the gray but grounded “moral” place that underlines the viciousness of the big city. The author depicts Los Angeles as a rootless metropolis, the city where the sunlight is “soft vague hazy,” and a detachment place with houses which are “bright, beautiful, and gay” but have no “basements or foundations” (Faulkner 10). Los Angeles is able to deteriorate an individual’s character. Ira’s mother sees it as a “cypress-and-marble cemetery” (Faulkner 6). The theatricality of the place images creates the impression that Los Angeles performs a fake dramatic show for the audience.
In the description of Los Angeles and representation of the global immorality, the author mentions the people of the city as “unselfconscious bodies.” They are adorable as goddesses and gods. These men and women are “without age” but “with the minds of infants” (Faulkner 11). People think about their appearance and body. They forget about the inside purity or, at least, normality. This image of the Los Angeles population has its own contrast too. It is the older woman whom Ira visits. According to his description, she is so imperfect and awkward in the bathing costume of the moment that he begs God for “all young female flesh…from the earth” (Faulkner 9). Gradually, Ira realizes the fakeness of the bodies of the other young girls. On the other hand, his mother changes her point of view on Los Angeles. She begins seeing it as a beautiful and peaceful place, “I will stay here and live forever” (Faulkner 13). In the end, she realizes that this city is full of beautiful things beside the horrible ones that she has noticed before. Moreover, she seems to be happy for Ira who finally achieves the success about which he has previously dreamt.
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The Faulkner’s “Golden Land” is a narration about a theatrical essence of the Los Angeles city. He bases his story on his own experience in this place (Grimwood 275). That is why, he can brilliantly reproduce the disgust of the consumer culture. Throughout the story, the author portrays his personal attitude. Faulkner has chosen the title “Golden Land” to show how deceptive the glory of this location is. At first sight, the place is ideal but in reality, it produces immoral human beings. His main message seems to be the agitation to run away from the immoral swampland. However, it may be only the warning for the new comers and remembrance of the local citizens about the opposite side of life in the city. Faulkner underlines the disgusting chauvinism of the people who strive for the perfection but forget about their inner world.