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Inevitable Grief in Not Yet, Jayette
In the short story "Not Yet, Jayette" by William Boyd, Charlie, the narrator and main character, describes a day in his life, and tries to understand, what is going on with him, and where and when his life took a turn towards misery. He states: "It seems to me that everybody in their life is at least two people. Once when you're a child, and once when you're an adult. It's the saddest thing." We will now try to see how this statement relates to his life, and whether or not this phenomenon can be said to be symptomatic for our culture.
Charlie, the main character of the short story, spends his life in Los Angeles, mostly looking for famous people. He used to be a star himself, when he was a child, but this came to an end as soon as he reached puberty. Now he is trying to recover the glamour of his childhood, but it is infinitely lost to him. This leads him to the reflection mentioned above.
I would argue, however, that he himself is not really changed. As a character, he appears never to have fully grown up. What has changed, is the attitude of the world towards him. His society, Hollywood, in the middle of the California of the American Dream, estimates youth above all, and maintains a "childish" attitude towards things. He himself, however, is excluded from the people he dreams of being with. He lives in a world of disillusionment, the wrong side of Hollywood, together with all those who have never succeeded. But he has somehow conserved a certain hopeful candour, which makes us pity him, as we know he should have no hope. This has however prevented him from sinking into the total despair of e.g. Vanessa, the woman he calls "aunt" . He keeps on dreaming about being famous, rich and young, and he views his own existence as a kid as something close to Paradise.
As I have already mentioned, he does not cope with existence like an adult. He is not able to keep his work, his family has been broken to pieces, and yet, all he does is looking for the rich and famous, and dreaming about the return of his career. He is secretly proud that Jayette, the woman in the coffee-shop, has noticed him.
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Unfortunately, such attitudes seem to have become the ideal of modern American and Western culture. Youth, happiness and carelessness are the new virtues, responsibility, stability and maturity is definitely "out". The American poet Robert Bly has vividly criticised this tendency in his book "The Sibling Society". Bly claims that nobody wants to take the responsibility of being a parent anymore. People want to be the siblings of their own children. They want to play and amuse themselves, setting limits and imposing rules is becoming rare. This results in moral unconsciousness for the children, and thus a depravation of society. I find this to be an interesting parallel to "Not Yet, Jayette". Charlie is clearly afraid of being a grown-up, and he is also visibly incapable of assuming responsibility.
When the teenager culture first erupted in the 1950's, it was a sub-culture, criticised and despised by the adult society. Young people revolted, they felt they were entitled to a little fun. Nowadays, the hunt for endless pleasure is common for all ages, and the result is that not being happy, successful, rich and beautiful, has become something terrible, something we dread above all. The modern American culture is a culture for kids, for people who do not need to worry, who do not want to worry, and who above all do not want to be responsible.
This same culture is based on a cynical exploitation of resources, and is at the very origin of today's environmental problems. It entails greed, selfishness, and ultimately, grief. The latter, because in an egoistic society, people do not really care about anything but themselves, not even about one another. This is what has happened to Charlie in William Boyd's story. There is no real human contact in his life. He has not fully understood everything yet, but at the end of the short story, one senses that he is about to perceive something new, something that might ultimately lead him as well into disillusion