The Normalcy of Absurdity in “The Semplica-Girl Diaries” and Relevance to Slavery

Quite prominent to me through this story was the sheer, inhumane absurdity of the concept of the Semplica-Girls, and the ideas surrounding this notion. The narrator begins his journaling in a rather difficult financial situation, rueing the wealth disparity between his family and their friends. He marvels at the grandiose birthday party, and it is clear that his entire family feels equally deflated as the protagonist following the lavish party, evident in the comment “Do not really like rich people, as they make us poor people feel dopey and inadequate.” and “Kids only slumped past and stood exhausted by front door.” The narrator strikes gold in a lottery scratch off, and decides to invest in the coveted Semplica-Girls. The concept of a Semplica-Girl is quite horrifying; a woman from a poorer country allegedly selling herself to support a family back at home to have a doctor “route microline through brain” to cause some sort of cognitive deficit.

Yet the protagonist continues to rationalize the process, claiming that it “does no damage, and causes no pain” and waves back to a Semplica-Girl “ like, In this household, is O.K. to wave” as if though he is being a merciful individual by permitting the Semplica-Girl to wave. The sheer absurdity of the concept and how it is a coveted, normal practice is striking, and echoes some of the concepts of slavery. Slaves were a luxury only available to the upper class plantation owners, much like the wealthy families in Saunders’ story. In addition, the (at least from current perspective and hindsight) perplexing detachment and dehumanizing attitudes adopted by the owners of the Semplica-Girls reflects the notion that slaves were lesser beings undeserving of equal rights. Another aspect of the story seeming to reflect the concept of slavery is the advocacy groups against the Semplica-Girls. During the eras of slavery, there certainly were groups of individuals that were against the ownership of slaves, much like the “Women4Women, Citizens for Economic Parity, Semplica Rots in Hell.” in Saunders’ story.

Perhaps Saunders is highlighting the sheer absurdity of the era of slavery, and the unfortunate normalcy with which it was regarded by establishing the ownership of Semplica-Girls as a coveted luxuries in his short story.

One thought on “The Normalcy of Absurdity in “The Semplica-Girl Diaries” and Relevance to Slavery”

  1. I think the absurdity of it is so off-putting for us as readers in this world because it does bring to mind the era of slaves, but it also echoes our culture today, perhaps we don’t covet people as much but at least for me, the more I think about the characters’ desire for the Semplica-girls as a boasting of status and wealth, the more I can picture people today doing something just as absurd. It almost seems like our current society hasn’t completely moved past the ideas of the slave era, we have just replaced slaves with other things.

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