Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 944
Obsession With Youth
Shteyngart satirizes Americans for their obsession with youth. In Shteyngart’s American dystopia, everyone strives to be young and superficial. Every character in Super Sad True Love Story is on the social network, GlobalTeens, although none of the characters is a teenager. Lenny is in a difficult position when the novel starts because he is about to turn forty. Lenny is depressed and ostracized because of his age. At work, people call him a RAG, an acronym for “rapidly aging geezer,” and one of his coworkers puts Lenny on a list of “people we should feel sorry for.” The America that Shteyngart describes does not have a place for adults and maturity.
Both Eunice and Lenny overcome their obsessions with youth through their familial relationships. Eunice leaves Lenny, but she does so because she realizes that the world is not as innocent as she took it to be. She decides to date Joshie because he can provide for her family. Meanwhile, Lenny overcomes his decision to never die by realizing the pivotal role that his parents played in his upbringing.
America as Dystopia
Lenny and Eunice’s relationship takes place against a dystopian America in the final stages of its decline. Politically, America has largely become a totalitarian state, and the government demands information about all aspects of people’s lives. When Lenny is about to return to New York from Rome, he is asked to name all the people that he has slept with while abroad. America is at war as well, and the National Guard is currently invading Venezuela.
Unfortunately, the American government is so deeply in debt that it cannot afford to compensate the National Guard for its fighting. In fact, the government only operates because of continued loans from the Chinese government. Still, the American Restoration Authority has enacted a series of slogans meant to restore the economy, including “Together We’ll Surprise the World” and a line from John Mellencamp’s song “Pink Houses”: “ain’t that America, something to see.” The obsession with youth inherent in these slogans fuels Shteyngart’s satire. The American Restoration Authority has also created Credit Poles that scan and broadcast people’s credit rating, urging people with credit to spend and those without to save.
By the end of Super Sad True Love Story, America no longer exists. It has been bought and parceled by foreign powers to create lifestyle hubs and prize cities for the wealthy. Middle- and lower-class housing has been removed from the city and these “low net worth individuals” have no alternative to hard labor. Lenny is able to flee to Toronto by virtue of his business background.
Social Networking and Relationships
Shteyngart satirizes social networking and the broadcasting of personal information through the äppärät and through the way that the characters of Super Sad True Love Story attempt to interact with each other. By pressing his äppärät against his heart, Lenny (and everyone in his immediate vicinity) is given data about his health as well as how attractive he finds the people around him. Lenny also receives rankings on his own attractiveness, which is often the lowest in the room.
After the Rupture, people are no longer able to use their äppäräts to communicate with the world. Eunice is especially affected by this loss and she struggles to find out what has happened to her family. She even struggles to exist, unaware of how to interact with others without broadcasting. Eunice also struggles to pass the time without shopping for lingerie.
In Shteyngart’s dystopian America, it seems that people have lost the ability to form relationships with each other that are not founded on job...
(The entire section contains 944 words.)
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