What is the general theme in "Love in L.A." by Dagoberto Gilb?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Several possible themes emerge from Gilb's story "Love in L.A."; however, one is certainly dominant:  the most prominent form of love in the big city is love of self."  This story is a twist on traditional love stories, as it primarily depicts a man in love with himself--and his car. 

Jake is consumed with himself and with gaining more pleasure for himself.  His first obsession is with his car, and this is what he wants:   

He needed an FM stereo in something better than this ’58 Buick he drove.  It would have crushed velvet interior with electric controls for the L.A. summer, a nice warm heater and defroster for the winter drives at the beach, a cruise control for those long trips, mellow speakers front and rear of course, windows that hum closed, snuffing out that nasty exterior noise of freeways.  The fact was that he’d probably have to change his whole style.  Exotic colognes, plush, dark nightclubs, mai tais and daiquiris, necklaced ladies in satin gowns, misty and sexy like in a tequila ad.

He wants much more than he has, and he wants it in order to help him "get" more women.  He clearly sees himself as a ladies' man and uses every opportunity to collect them.  The main incident in this story is a minor car accident during, of course, rush-hour traffic in L.A.  Jake uses even this opportunity to make his moves.  As he gets out of the car, he doesn't ask if the young woman is okay; instead, he asks, "So, how you doin?" and follows with the remark that he "kinda" hopes she's not quite all right so he can talk with her longer. 

This is the consistent attitude and behavior throughout the story--a desire for "love" at the most shallow and self-serving level. Thus the theme. 

reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The theme of shallowness and superficiality is apparent in the short story "Love in L.A." by Dagoberto Gilb. Understanding the title of the story is necessary to understand this theme. First of all, the story is set in L.A., which is considered an artificial city where actors get their big breaks playing roles, and people come and go, all in the quest for fame and fortune. As well, love in the title is not love at all. In fact, it is Jake's desire for his fantasy car that drives his life. Jake is merely an actor in his own life.

Jake's behavior mirrors his shallowness when he tells lie after lie to Mariana and tries to pick her up after he hits her car, asking for her phone number. The reader discovers it is all an act, and at the close of the story Jake takes a minute "to feel both proud and sad about his performance."

The story closes with Jake still fantasizing about the car with the FM radio and the velvet interior. That is as far as his dreams go; he dreams of a new car that enables him to meet women. His life is beyond superficial, it is a devoid of morals and meaning. His entire life is merely an act.