Textverständnis und Analyse: Fiktionaler Text "Airworld" by W. Kim
35-year-old Ryan Bingham, the protagonist of Walter Krin’s novel Up in the Air is an American business consultant who has to do a lot of travelling for his job which results in him spending most time at airports and in hotels. Despite all the hectic and restlessness such a life involves Ryan seems to be perfectly happy and content.
As he states himself, he loves all the things people generally hate about planes and airports: “the dry, recycled air alive with viruses, the salty food that seems drizzled with warm mineral oil; the aura-sapping lighting” (ll.2-4). The airport, which for others is merely a stop-over on the way to their final destination, is for him a sort of home in spite of the artificial setting, the junk food and the business. Unsurprisingly, Ray therefore sees himself to be part of a “new species” or a “sort of mutation” (ll.33) that considers the “airworld” to be its own habitat.
He prefers “fast friends” (l.20), like hotel service staff, cleaners and travel acquaintances which are like a family to him, as he believes that they know life “so much better than [his] own family” (l.21) in whose company he feels alienated and estranged. This may also be a reason why he does not concern himself with local news and gossip. His preferred readings are newspapers like USA Today and the Wall Street Journal as well as bestsellers about high finance and spies. In a way, his lifestyle has made him unable to cling to long-term relationship or to get a deeper involvement in issues that concern people more personally.
Achieving as a key idea that is always in the forefront of the American mind. It is embedded in the American Dream that everybody who comes to the USA can make something of their lifes if only they put enough effort and force of will into it. What the country provides is the firm promise set down in the Declaration of Independence of the equal and unconditional right to pursue freedom and happiness. All else is in the hands of those who seek to make their lives there. It is part of the traditional Protestant work ethic that renders economic success a result of hard work and diligence independent of one’s personal background. Thus too, failure cannot be put down to misfortune or outward circumstances but to one’s own negligence. Naturally this requires force of character to come to terms with and make the best out of difficult or unpleasant situations.
This may explain the protagonist’s positive attitude in Up in the Air towards a life which the average person would after a short while reject as stressful, sad and lonely. Ryan Bingham has adapted rather well to the life of businessman without a proper home or family. He feels quite at home in the artificial and flyby setting of airports which, on the other hand, has made him unable to create deeper ties or to get emotionally close to other people. His own relatives do not mean much to him and he shies away from personal meetings preferring them to be a “telephone family” (l.22). Instead he spends his Christmas cooking dinner for the janitors and cleaners in his hotel kitchenette and considers chance meetings with people on the same plane as “closes acquaintances” (l.18) even if they have only exchanged a few sentences. He has freed himself of all commitments by even selling his apartment which he only kept “for storage purposes” (l.33). With respect to his lifestyle, Ryan, thus has fulfilled all the provisions of the American Dream. He epitomises the American self-made man in every fibre by proving to be hard-working, flexible, focused, mobile, economically successful and happy with his lot.
However, despite all his gusto, his view on life and happiness seems twisted and inverted. Although Ryan never fully admits as much, we can still see from the way that he describes himself that he is not the ordinary chap. Right at the beginning therefore he addresses the reader: “Everything fellows like you dislike about them [planes and airports,] […] has grown dear to me over the years, familiar, sweet.” (l.1-4) He makes it quite clear that he is not the typical everyman. He is part of “a new species” existing separately from the rest of the human race. In a way this also seems to prove the twistedness of the American Dream. All that would make a sensitive man happy and content – family, friends, closeness and love – seems if not superfluous, at least to rank below economic success and material wealth.
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