T.C. Boyle’s Drop City

For my annotation on Drop City, written by T.C. Boyle, I focused on sentence structure and metaphor. Boyle seems to love writing metaphors. Every page, nearly every paragraph has at least one metaphor, and they never seemed forced or out of place, although by the end of the book, I felt like he had written too many metaphors. He uses this technique when mostly writing about the hippie commune, Drop City, and their people. Whether the hippies were drugged out or jonesing for more, metaphors were a plenty.

I find this interesting because while on drugs people seem to experience life in an alternative way, and through Boyle’s lines he is able to remind a reader who has experienced the effects of drugs to relate or remember and he is able to help the inexperienced drug user understand what it feels and looks like. Upon first investigation, Boyle either did quite a few drugs in his day, or he researched the hell out of drug effects. For instance, one of Boyle’s characters is tripping on acid when he closes his eyes to escape a world of tracers and hallucinations and climbs into a world draped in front of a black curtain of swirling colors, fireworks, and explosions. This is one detail I believe everyone on LSD experiences.

While reading, I highlighted sentences that really stuck out in some fashion, whether they are difficult to understand, one the reader needed to ponder while high on weed or tripping their balls off on acid. For example, the first line of chapter one reads, “The morning was a fish in a net, glistening and wriggling at the dead black border of her consciousness, but she’d never caught a fish in a net or on a hook either, so she couldn’t really say if or how or why” (p. 3). This line sets the reader up to understand what kind of book they are going to read. If the reader wants to fully understand the book, she has to stop and think about what Boyle is saying, hence what his characters are saying. At the conclusion of each of his lengthy sentences, I can picture Star, Ronnie, or Merry saying, “Right on man.” During this time, a straight person may not follow or even want to follow.

If the opening line (see above) were stated by either of the female main characters, Star or Pamela, the line would have a different meaning. Star would be referring to the after effects of a night spent hallucinating and “balling” whomever her boyfriend wanted her to get with, and if it was stated by Pamela, it may imply something bad happened to her, like she slipped on a rock and was knocked unconscious. Even though this illustrates the two female characters are vastly different, they are able to connect in the same way Boyle is able to connect with his readers, whether they have done drugs or (I am guessing) have not.

Through the use of metaphor, Boyle has constructed complex sentences for the most complex characters. Star, the hippie, may seem like a simple character from the viewpoint of other characters, but she in fact is not. She illustrates the time period well, when a man could still dominate a woman even amidst the feminist movement. Boyle’s female characters, who were supposedly enlightened, still make and serve the meals. Only through Star’s inner thoughts do we start to understand her character. “Ronnie [Star’s boyfriend] had talked her into undressing in front of the other guy—or no, he’d shamed her into it” (p. 7). The word “shamed” tells the reader just how Star feels about undressing in front of the guy. It tells the reader how she is not very strong, does not stand up for herself, and it tells a lot about Ronnie’s character as well. In the end, Star never frees herself until Ronnie is dead even though she has not been conjoined with him for a great long while.

Contrary to Star’s inner fight to find herself, Pamela knows what she wants and goes after it. She does not care about feminism. She travels to backwoods Alaska to find a husband who can take care of her and marry him in a week. She cooks and cleans, but she also hauls trees and builds a cabin. Through out the entire novel, she is the free one, and by example, she is able to show Star how to be free.

Through Boyle’s use of metaphor he frees the reader of the shackles of conformity. His words do not line up all in a neat little row like those in a lot of contemporary novels.

Below I have listed some of what I believe to be some of Boyle’s best sentences and metaphors.

“She- the poet- let out a scream. And this was no ordinary scream- it wasn’t the kind of semi-titillated pro forma shriek you might expect from a female poet announcing a fistfight among hippies in a half-dug ditch in a blistering field above the Russian River; no this was meant to convey shock, real shock, a savage tug at the cord strung taut between the two poles of existence. The poet’s scream rose above the heat, airless and impacted, and everything stopped right there” (56).

Boyle could of just said, “On a hot day, she let out a blood curdling

scream.”

“Reba looking hard and old in the morning light, her hair like dried weeds, her eyes blunted and lifeless. When she smiled- and she wasn’t smiling now, because her lips were two dead things pressed on atop the other- a whole deep rutted floodplain of lines and gouges swallowed her eyes, as if she’d already used up her quotient of joy and from now on out every laugh was going to cost her” (124).

Boyle is able to describe her face perfectly, but he did not just say, “her hair stuck out everywhere and her eyes were glazed over. She looked like the walking dead.” He brought her ugliness alive instead of killing it.

One of the last lines in Drop City reads, The snow whispered at his feet, talked to him, sang out with the rhythm of the night” (449).

Here Boyle’s character Sess, a hardened Alaskan trapper, illustrates how he lives in the state of mind the hippies are always searching for. Sess is able to hear the snow sing. Through simple metaphor Boyle’s final statement not only creates a warm picture in a harsh environment, but it also teaches a lesson for those who have paid attention.

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