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The short story “Diary of an Interesting Year” by Helen Simpson is delivered to readers in the form of a diary entries.
It is the year 2040, and the main character, a 30-year-old women, writes entries regarding her decrepit life in the post-apocalyptic world. The earth is scarred by the effects of global warming, and with that, unravels society as we know it. The first entry starts in February, and ends with the last one in November. Throughout this time period, the narrator remains in a constant state of pain as a result of the many events that occur. The focus of the entries is on her excruciating journey to Moscow, in hopes of finding a safe haven. Along the way, she endures the casualties of friends and loved ones. As the circumstances worsen, she is forced to take actions which betray her moral compass. The theme of the entries give readers insight on the dangers of a global warming. The tone that they are written in can be perceived as a warning; pushing readers act in order to avoid a catastrophe in the future. Simpson’s writing alludes to the idea that society is heading in a dark direction due to the careless harmful treatment of the environment.
The setting of the story takes place in Peckham, a South-east district of London England. The streets are covered with the backflow of sewage, exposing citizens to the rancid smells and diseases that fester in it. With the lack of operating medical facilities, the mortality rates have taken a climb. Cholera spreads through the population, driving people to restrict the amount of contact with one another. In fear of catching the disease, the narrator avoids contact with her cousins who had lost “their two sons” to it the year before. The chances of a young infant surviving in these conditions are practically null. To make things worse, condoms and birth control have become a rare commodity. In multiple entries, the narrator describes her fear of pregnancy as being “Permanently on knife edge”. She estimated that a newborn child would last “Three months max in these conditions”. Her attitude towards this situation reveals the level of support provided by the “Skeleton government”. The withdrawal of the government becomes more evident in the entry for August 9th. Over the radio, she learns that fuel stores have gone dry and will no longer be available for the general public’s use. With this announcement, they decided to disable “All remaining civilian cars”. These acts by government have pushed it to be ruled by martial law.
Despite the martial presence, it is an obvious facade for the true nature of the situation. In reality, it wasn’t uncommon for muggugings, rape, and other forms of violence to take place. The lacking presence of authority has not only left citizens vulnerable, but also the environment. In its absence, no one made any efforts to stop the effects of global warming seriously. This resulted in the occurrence of an event known as the “Big Melt”. Despite the many signs of environmental damage, society ignored them under the assumption that they “Had till 2060” before the catastrophe would occur. It is obvious that Simpson uses this theme in her writing to shed light on the fact that humans are willingly blind, and procrastinate too much when it comes to taking action.
The representation of societies laziness in the short story resulted in the current conditions of the year 2040. It is through the narrator’s perspective that readers can get a glimpse of a probable future if humanity does not make changes. Underneath the dark atmosphere of Simpson’s writing, there is an embedded message which makes readers re-evaluate their attitude and impact on the environment. The raw and unfiltered description of the narrator’s lifestyle is severe but effective as a scare tactic. Her description of this dystopian future is grimy, sending chills up the spines of any reader. Just the thought of living in a world of this sort sounds comparable to that of hell. Through the use of vivid writing, Simpson has managed to implant her personal opinions and views about global warming as a problem into the minds of her audience. By writing this short story, she has brought attention to fact that humans are their own worst enemies at times. Causing damage to their surroundings without much consideration. This has proved the idea that societies anthropogenic actions are only drawing the Earth closer to its expiry date.
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