The Mosquito Coast – random thoughts
I have been thinking about the prevailing issue of self-contradiction and confusion of many individuals who are supposed to be thinkers and visionaries. I decided to post this random online data on a book (which was made into a movie) by Paul Theroux. I was very young when I first read the book and I was increasingly disillusioned as I stepped into the hero’s son’s shoes. What is one man’s utopia is another man’s hell. Today I find the same issue of utopia emerges and is making such loud and discorded noises in the Western world. Ironically it is the reversed that is being clambered now as masses from the third world are straining to gate crash into the Western world, which to them means paradise.
Allie Fox is a genius, a fool, a loving father, a madman, a dreamer, and a selfish… (by a reviewer)
In a breathtaking adventure story, the paranoid and brilliant inventor Allie Fox takes his family to live in the Honduran jungle, determined to build a civilization better than the one they’ve left. Fleeing from an America he sees as mired in materialism and conformity, he hopes to rediscover a purer life. But his utopian experiment takes a dark turn when his obsessions lead the family toward unimaginable danger. (Goodreads)
Once he has arrived in the jungle, Fox, a Harvard dropout, father of four, and an amateur inventor with an intense disgust for the state of his original nation, his vision are slowly corrupted and he becomes a cult leader, like the preacher he despises. The black migrant workers who follow him to Mosquitia even address Fox as “father.”
Spellbinding adventure story of a family that rejects its homeland and tries to find a happier and simpler life in the jungles of Central America. The motivation comes from the father, Allie Fox, who is a character in the classic American mold. A cantankerous inventor, he is articulate, shrewd, scornful, funny, very angry, and slightly cracked. An individualist, Fox sees modern American culture as a despicable combination of the wasteful, the immoral, and the messy. Uprooting his family from their Massachusetts farm home, he takes them off to a primitive world in order to escape what he considers the imminent breakdown of civilization.
The Mosquito Coast has the fascination of an ironic version of Robinson Crusoe or a sardonic Swiss Family Robinson, along with the deeper levels akin to those of The Lord of the Flies. As a sheer teller of tales Theroux is at the top of his form, but he also succeeds as a moralist with a subtle fable in mind.
The story is told with fresh innocence by the fourteen year old Charlie, who observes his father with a mixture of love, horror, and astonishment. He describes the voyage, the trip into the interior, his father’s invention of a giant ice-making machine (which is supposed to bring a new era to the jungle), and all of the adventures that ensue. Charlie watches as his father becomes ever more obsessive, evermore lost to reality.
The Mosquito Coast Quotes
Fox says to his son: “Look around you, Charlie. This place is a toilet.”
“I’m the last man,” Fox tells Charlie.
“One of the sicknesses of the twentieth century? I’ll tell you the worst one. People can’t stand to be alone. Can’t tolerate it! So they go to the movies, get drive-in hamburgers, put their home telephone numbers in the crapsheets and say ‘Please call me up!’ It’s sick. People hate their own company — they cry when they see themselves in mirrors. It scares them, the way their faces look. Maybe that’s a clue to the whole thing…”
“I guessed it was a migratory bird, too innocent to be wary of the spiders in the jungle grass. It worried be to think that we were a little like that bird”
“Why do things get weaker and worse? Why don’t they get better? Because we accept that they fall apart! But they don’t have to — they could last forever. Why do things get more expensive? Any fool can see that they should get cheaper as technology gets more efficient. It’s despair to accept the senility of obsolescence…”
“And father said “I never wanted this. I’m sick of everyone pretending to be old Dan Beavers in his L. L. Bean moccasins, and his Dubbelwares, and his Japanese bucksaw — all these fake frontiersmen with their chuck wagons full of Twinkies and Wonderbread and aerosol cheese spread. Get out the Duraflame log and the plastic cracker barrel, Dan, and let’s talk self-sufficiency!”
“Nature is crooked. I wanted right angles and straight lines. Ice! Oh, why do they all drip? You cut yourself opening a can of tuna fish and you die. One puncture in your foot and your life leaks out through your toe. What are they for, moose antlers? Get down on all fours and live. You’re protected on your hands and knees. It’s either that or wings.”
“The world is plain rotten. People are mean, they’re cruel, they’re fake, they always pretend to be something their not. They’re weak. They take advantage. A cruddy little man who sees God in a snake, or the devil in thunder, will take you prisoner if he gets the drop on you. Give anyone half a chance and he’ll make you a slave; he’ll tell you the most awful lies. I’ve seen them, running around bollocky, playing God. And our friends… they’ll be lonely out there. They’ll be scared. Because the world stinks.”
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
“He used the word savages with affection, as if he liked them a little for it. In his nature was a respect for wildness. He saw it as a personal challenge, something that could be put right with an idea or a machine. He felt he had the answer to most problems, if anyone cared to listen.”
The Mosquito Coast begins in contemporary suburban
America. Allie Fox is brilliantly clever with his hands and
his head is full of ideas. But he hates the modern world.
His children have no television or toys, they wear old
clothes and they don’t go to school. He hates his boss,
Mr Polski, who, Allie thinks, is only interested in making
money and doesn’t care about the future.
One day Allie decides to get out. He puts his wife and
children in his van and drives them away from their old
life. They travel by ship to Honduras. At La Ceiba, on the
Honduran coast, his bewildered family watches as he buys
a place called Jeronimo, a small town on a river in the
Background and themes
Travelling: Paul Theroux is a traveller. The nature of
travelling means that you move on. Moving on, leaving
things behind and looking for new experiences, is an
important theme in The Mosquito Coast. Allie Fox doesn’t
like what he sees in America. His solution is not to stay
and try to change it, but to walk away. When things don’t
work out at various places in Honduras, he makes his
family move on and start again.
Obsession: The Mosquito Coast is a character study of a
man who develops a paranoid obsession – of a man who
thinks the whole world is against him and only he can save
the world. He lives in a state of high tension, never resting
in his attacks on America and western civilization. He
fights against the current of modern life. He thinks he is
the last real man in the world.
Control: In Allie’s attempts to create a new world in the
jungle, he tries to control everyone and everything around
him. He makes everyone see things his way. When he
feels threatened, he reacts aggressively and violently.
Father/son relationship: The novel also examines the
relationship between father and son. Theroux elicits
warm feeling towards Allie by telling the story through
the eyes of his loyal son, Charlie Fox. We feel sorry for
Charlie as he comes to understand his father’s failings and
to lose his belief in him.
The natural world versus the modern world: Theroux
sets up an interesting paradox as the basis of the novel.
All the time that Allie is searching for a simple paradise,
he is planning how to change it and tame it. In fact it is
the children who learn better to live with nature – eating
wild plants, protecting themselves against insects with
leaf juices, building a simple shelter from materials in the
jungle. Allie, meanwhile, plants western crops in neat
rows, puts up elaborate mosquito nets and builds an
Paul Edward Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist, whose best known work is The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), a travelogue about a trip he made by train from Great Britain through Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, through South Asia, then South-East Asia, up through East Asia, as far east as Japan, and then back across Russia to his point of origin. Although perhaps best known as a travelogue writer, Theroux has also published numerous works of fiction, some of which were made into feature films. He was awarded the 1981 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel The Mosquito Coast.