Wildernesses in Businesses: “Friday Black”
In Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s apocalyptic short story “Friday Black”, the author scrutinizes consumers’ and businesses’ wilderness on Black Friday in a dystopian, contemporary and materialistic society. For most people, Black Friday rhymes with ‘Deals and Steals’- meaning that trying to buy what we really want or need at a good price. But in this account, the author stepped it up, and literally labels Black Friday as a ‘dark’ day where humans consumers turn into obstreperous creatures to be able to purchase the goods they want, no matter what it takes and to the detriment of the stores’ workers. Nana Kwame symbolizes the dehumanization of the customers and as well as the inhumane working conditions of retails employees by using zoomorphism, the first person’s narrative point of view and through the use of syntax. In this story, the author show how he reacts to absurdities and tries to find meaning at work where preposterous events happen.
Throughout the story, the narrator utilizes zoomorphism as a device to illustrate the theme of hyper-consumerism in order to give a disorienting twist to the story within a familiar place and to demonstrate consumer’s desire and aggression. For example, “White foam drips from his mouth” (Adjei-Brenyah 106) and “Our gate whines and rattles as they shake and pull, their fingers through the grating” (104) matches to zoomorphism which shows the hunger of materialistic consumers who are dehumanized by their envy of buying goods. This kind of behavior may indicate that for the consumers, buying these goods is a form of ‘reward’ or ‘achievement’ and that it is essential to be able to fit in the society we live in. In other words, possessing goods defines who we are and there is a positive correlation between one’s status and the goods possessed. Furthermore, the protagonist acclaims the fact that “[t]he Prominent is bloody and broken, so I can tell it’s been a great Black Friday” (110). This clearly shows that in a radical form of a money-oriented society, emphaty, a key psychological characteristic of humans, has been taken away and replaced by indifference. This reaction can be justified by the fact that in the business world, people should not “react or judge” emotion in the workplace (Zigarmi) as it might affect the productivity. This also represents the psychological dehumanization and the exploitation of retail workers. Overall, the author use of zoomorphism is not only to justify the action of consumers but also to tackle the issue of inhumane working conditions and the fact that attachment to material goods ‘steals’ people’s mind.
To continue, Adjei-Brenyah’s employment of the first person’s point of view, allows readers to comprehend how the main character finds meaning in such a wild environment and the link between love and money. “We’re supposed to do a million over the next thirty days. Most of it’s on me” (104), this shows the main character’s ego. He wants to do the most sales because it is a “realistic way of satisfying the id’s demand” (McLeod). According to Sigmund Freud’s theory about id and ego, the fact that the protagonist wants to sell a lot, emerge from an idea that he conceived in his unconscious mind. In other words, the id is the unconscious mind and the “ego is the consciousness” (McLeod) that allows us to “achieve the id’s needs” (McLeod). In this short story, the id’s need is based on recognition, which is the fact that he wants to either be “[t]he greatest goddamn salesman this store has ever seen and will ever see”(111) or to “beat her [Angela]”(111) and to “squash her[Angela]” (110). Moreover, the need for recognition goes even further when he will bring the coat to her mother as a symbol that he loves her. This type behavior brings up the question where to draw the line between materialism and love. In the story, we learn that his family had financial issues and his parents “yell about money” (110). It means the happiness of his family depends on money, thus leaving readers to believe that the relationship within his family members are ‘materialistic’ and in order to bring happiness, he has to bring money or in this case the jacket. In short, the use of the first person’s point of view illustrates that the protagonist finds meaning by his desire for recognition in his workplace and within his family.
Finally, in Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black, the author makes use of syntax to demonstrate dehumanization, the regression of the human species as well as the theme of personhood. In fact, he uses short nominal sentences, that are not elaborated. For example, “Blue! Son! SleekPack!” (106) shows humans regression and the fact that they do not speak English but “speak Black Friday” (106). Furthermore, this type of sentence structure is also a flashback to the untamed world when language was not sophisticated. By doing so, the author is comparing the consumers to early human species who tries to survive in the primitive Earth. Thus, he is suggesting that the society suffers from a ‘biological devolution’ as humans are behaving more like primitive times. This brings up the question of personhood. What distinguishes human species and a person? An individual is considered as a human “if there is human DNA” (Personhood: Crash Course Philosophy #21) but to be a person, there needs to be “moral consideration” (Ibid). But in this story, humans do not have any moral consideration because it is normal that “our store has three bodies in the bodies section” (108) and the more humans die, the better Black Friday is. In brief, the sentence structure brings the reader to question whether or not the consumers should be defined as humans or persons.
To conclude, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah shows the devastating effect of living in an extreme materialistic society in which compassion and humanistic behavior are swept away through the use of zoomorphism, first person point of view and syntax. In the story, the main character tries to win his mother’s affection by giving her a jacket. Even though the protagonist claims that this act is to show affection towards her mother, the love is based on money. The jacket’s price reflects the love and this changes the way on what affection is based on. The narrator bings up the issue of communication in his family and in fact, it is proven that greediness has a negative effect on relationships because “materialism was also linked to less effective communication, higher levels of negative conflict, lower marriage relationship satisfaction and less marriage stability” (Hutchinson). In other words, human’s love for money is redefining what it means to be human. Thus, ‘Friday Black’, brings up the issue of human wanting more money and goods which leads to the dehumanization and regression of the society.
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In Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s apocalyptic short story “Friday Black”, the author scrutinizes consumers’ and businesses’ wilderness on Black Friday in a dystopian, contemporary and materialistic society. For most people, Black […]