George Saunders – “The Semplica Girl Diaries”

“SG’s very much on my mind tonight, future reader.

Where are they now? Why did they leave?

Just do not get.”

The “Semplica-Girl Diaries” is an unsettling story told through the lens of a father in his 40’s. After attending a party at his neighbors house, he realizes that the multiple garages, exotic animals, and large mansions are far from anything he could ever provide for his daughter. With a stroke of luck, however, he wins a 10,000 dollar lottery and spends the money on an extravagant party for her, complete with a set of Semplica girls. The Semplica-Girls are women who live in such poverty that they are forced to sell themselves to the wealthy as lawn ornaments. The women in this story are strung up by strings through their brain in large groups and suspended to serve as symbols of wealth and status. The Semplica girls mirror the treatment of immigrant workers in our society today. The narrator is seemingly happy with this arrangement: people admire his lawn, he’s competing with his neighbors, and his daughter is popular. However, Eva, his youngest daughter decides to fight back and frees the girls, plunging her family into deep debt. Ironically, the youngest child, whose mind is supposedly the most malleable, is strongest in her morals. She serves as a glimmer of a hope in a dismally morbid futuristic society.

After I finished reading this story, I realized that the narrator has much more in common with the Semplica girls than he realizes. He’s been keeping both an emotional and physical distance from them throughout the story, but when he begins to think about their home countries and lifestyles, he begins to realize that they are more similar than he thought. The above quote demonstrates this. They’re both willing to make sacrifices for their family. He spent excessive amounts of money on his daughters to ensure that they had comfortable lives. On the other hand, the Semplica girls were willing to sell their bodies and their pride to provide for their families in impoverished countries. Both the narrator and the Semplica girls have an aspiration and a desire to better the lives of those around them. The only difference being that the dad was born to a life of privilege. I believe the reason that he blocked himself from any relation to the Semplica girls was because he saw too much of himself in their reflections.

One thought on “George Saunders – “The Semplica Girl Diaries””

  1. I think your correlation between the narrator and the Semplica Girls is right on track, though I would further consider the attitudes by which each carries out his or her search for success. The narrator eliminates himself by omitting any mention of his name or identity, especially by the elimination of the first person pronoun. Truly, though he does want the best for his family, this exploit seems to correlate with the expectations and societal norms of those around him. In and of himself, he does seem to express a desire for luxurious material objects and lifestyle standards; yet he seems unwilling to accept the causal responsibility and work associated with success. The September 7th entry attempts to correct the slip he made the previous day, as he complained about his job, but one cannot help but feel that a comment made at a point of great weariness may be the most realistic and accurate expression of his sentiment. The entry of the seventh acknowledges his desire for wealth but degrades the worthiness of the presently rich, as “I aspire to be rich myself. And when we finally do get our own bridge, trout, tree house, SGs, etc., at least will know we really earned them, unlike, say, the Torrinis, who, I feel, must have family money”. Within less than two weeks, the narrator has won the lottery – and promptly spends the winnings upon a lavish landscaping project involving SGs. His actions are therefore unbearably impulsive; the blatant lack of pragmatism betrays the reality of the situation. Unlike the SGs, who make the drastic, binding decision to entirely sacrifice themselves for the wellbeing of their families, the narrator – while seemingly well-meaning – is ultimately self-serving in his fulfillment of his vision. He in no way earned the lottery winnings; and therefore, he could not have attained appreciation for their truth worth and potential, as to enable him to make responsible choices in regards to their allocation. Though materialism is rampant within the society, its essential ephemerality is emphasized by the sudden hardship that the family must now encounter. Therefore, while the narrator and the Semplica Girls do share qualities, it is ultimately the implied attitude towards the wealth where they most greatly differ. One must wonder – as the family delves into poverty, will others abuse them as they themselves used the Semplica Girls?

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