How does Hunter S. Thompson present the culture of Puerto Rico as well as American Culture in his book The Rum Diary?
Hunter S. Thompson’s novel The Rum Diary tells the story of Paul Kemp, a journalist working in Puerto Rico in the only English language newspaper in town. The book mainly documents his experiences with the violent locals, and possibly even more violent and alcoholic colleagues, as well as painting a realistic picture of the Puerto Rico of the 1950’s.
The excerpt begins with an immediate reminder of the setting of the novel. The “sand road” is not the only description of the driving conditions in Puerto Rico that the author gives throughout the novel, but is still important in stressing to the reader the impoverished nature of the country, and how the roads there were in disrepair in comparison to the American roads that the author is used to, providing an early contrast in cultures.
Thompson uses some violent vocabulary in the phrase “he’d be hit for another dollar to go back across the river”. This is notable for exemplifying the fundamental dislike that the American characters of the novel have for the local Puerto Ricans. The phrase almost seems to mirror the violence between the Puerto Ricans and the Americans that runs throughout the novel. This vocabulary which suggests violence is continued in the next sentence,” the little car thumped and bounced”, before any actual violence occurs.
Soon, however, we see some real violence occur, as the two men drive past, “a pack of naked children stoning a dog beside the road.” This gets no reaction from Kemp, our narrator, who seems to let his companion Sala speak for him. The morbid curiosity that Sala displays when photographing the event sums up the attitude of the Americans in the novel towards the Puerto Ricans; they seem to regard them with a degree of shock in their actions and customs (exemplified by the scene at the party later in the book), but are still fascinated by them...
Bibliography: The Rum Diary – Hunter S. Thompson (first published 1998)
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