In Lost City Radio, how do the people inhabit each space (the city and jungle) differently?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Norma looks out at the city at the beginning of the novel, she sees the following:

"That broad avenue, choked with traffic and people, with buses and moto-taxis and vegetable carts. Or life on the city rooftops: clothes hanging on a line next to rusting chicken coops, old men playing cards on a milk crate, dogs barking angrily, teeth bared at the heavy sea air. She'd even seen a man once, sitting on his yellow hard hat, sobbing" (page 4).

In the city, life is a spectacle, a panorama in which every space is taken. After being displaced from the jungle, people have transported part of their rural lives to the city so that elements of the jungle, such as chicken coops, are juxtaposed next to elements of urban life, such as city rooftops. Human emotions such as despair are on display in the city. Rey compares the city to "networks of impulses...human, electrical, biological" (page 65). In this metaphor, the city seems partly alive and partly mechanical, and the people who live there make the city thrum with activity. The mood of these passages is lively and energetic.

People inhabit the jungle in a less hectic, crowded way, as the jungle is a place of death and loss where nature still reigns supreme. When Norma first hears that Victor is from the jungle, she thinks, "mass graves, anonymous villagers, murdered and tossed into ditches" (page 4). The jungle is still wild, and people inhabit it but not fully. Victor's favorite place in his village is described in the following way:

"[it is] an empty field at the edge of the jungle, a sometime park, sometime trash dump full of flowering wild plants and lizards with golden eyes, a field alive with the cawing of invisible birds" (23).

The jungle keeps encroaching on where the people live, and they can never take over the vastness of the jungle in the way they can take over the city. Instead, the jungle is wild, full of flowering plants and strange creatures. The passages describing the jungle imply that it is a wild place, full of despair, where nature, rather than humans, is in control.