How does The Storyteller answer the question, "How does a person's culture influence his poverty?"
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It is important to be very clear in how "poverty" is being defined in order to answer this question. This book explores best the concept of culture and identity, and the impact of having a strong culture and identity, which is a form of richness in itself. One of the big issues in the book is the way that indigenous tribal groups such as the Machiguengas are "civilised," and have their cultural identity taken away from them as they are Westernised and forced to abandon their original customs. This is something that makes them impoverished in terms of the loss of their identity. A person's culture influences their poverty or lack of it to the extent that they are able to maintain their culture and practices in the face of opposition. Note what Saul Zurita says to the narrator about the Machiguengas and other such indigenous tribes:
These cultures must be respected... and the only way to respect them is not to go near them. Not touch them. Our culture is too strong, too aggressive. It devours everything it touches. They must be left alone. Haven't they amply demonstrated that they have the right to go on being what they are?
The picture that the novel leaves in the mind of the Machiguengas and their inevitable demise as a culturally distinct people shows the way that culture and identity yields richness in terms of creating a distinct people who are able to define themselves by who they are. Taking away their culture and significant elements of their practices, as are done to the Machiguengas, has the impact of impoverishing them culturally, even though materially they might be better off, because their identity is taken away from them.
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