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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 248

Themes of Pastoralia, by George Saunders, include worker solidarity, internal struggle, capitalist oppression, and isolation. In the novella, the unnamed protagonist and his coworker, Janet, must endure working meaningless jobs as a caveman and cavewoman in an amusement park exhibit. The two must endure the daily monotonous tasks that the job entails while having to stay in character as cave-people the entire time. The two are isolated from their families, as they must live in separate quarters off the exhibit. They are expected to speak in grunts and other such sounds for the duration of their waking hours in the exhibit. They are therefore highly isolated from each other and the rest of humanity. Their only communication with their families is through fax.

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The unnamed protagonist experiences internal struggle throughout the story as he contemplates reporting Janet in their daily performance reports for her less-than-satisfactory cavewoman performance. However, for most of the story, he chooses to not report his coworker in an act of worker solidarity. However, he eventually chooses to side with the oppressive company and sell out his co-worker, who continuously refuses to consistently be in character as she is forced to navigate difficult circumstances in her life and the oppression of the company.

Throughout the story, the oppression of capitalism is clearly represented through the meaninglessness of the jobs that the main characters hold, through the divide-and-conquer tactics of the company boss and supervisor, and through the isolation and unsatisfactory lives that the characters experience.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 445

“Pastoralia” concerns itself with the division between outer and inner worlds and with the difficulty of making the two mesh coherently. On the most obvious level, this division is expressed within the life of the actors, who not only must play their parts throughout the day but also must live on the set at night, albeit in private quarters. In private, they are able to speak and write in English, send faxes, and eat modern-day snacks, if they can get them. Throughout the day, however, they must act according to guidelines set for them by their employers. The organization controls their lives down to the smallest detail; they must even eat according to the dictates of their reenactment. Above all, whatever their internal thoughts, they are forbidden to speak them. As cave people, after all, they are capable only of grunts and gestures.

George Saunders first establishes the conflict between inner and outer worlds at a slightly deeper level, however. Within the first paragraph, the man playing the caveman considers his feeling of discontent but also states that he would never, or at...

(The entire section contains 693 words.)

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