Last class, in literature, we read a story called Bilenum written by, J. G Ballard. After analyzing the story together our teacher Pato, ask us to answer some questions in groups. I’ve worked with Marcos Okecki and Ramiro Aizpiri.
This are our questions:
1.Write a detailed synopsis of the story.
The story is about Ward who lives in an overpopulated world. He lived in a cubicle in the staircase. His cubicle was the biggest one and everyone told him that he was very lucky. Moreover, at having this bigger espace he can have more privacy than the others. However, when anyone walked up or down the stairs he would hear it, this wouldn’t let him sleep. One day, an inspector came to his cubicle and told him that as his cubicle was too big he had to pay double rent or shared the room. As he didn’t like the idea, he moved into a poorer neighborhood with his friend Rossiter. As soon as they got into the cubicle, Ward was angry. He hit the panel strongly and it fell off. In addition, as they noticed that the room was very big, they invite two friends to live with them. They separated the room in partitions. Finally, they invited more people, nevertheless, they ended as when they started, with very little space.
2. Discuss the theme of over-population and the effect it has on both the way of life and quality of life of the inhabitants of the city.
The everyday life of people is terrible, people can’t even visit their parents from their houses because of the pedestrian jum. Just by going to work, because there are so many people trying to move they get bruises. On their houses they have no privacy, they either have to share a minuscules rooms with a lot of people or be alone in an trifling cubicle. However the only solution for their limited space was by having at least three children.
3. The quest for living space has become an overriding obsession with the people of the city. Discuss this theme in detail. Include in your answer some discussion of the ways in which Ballard makes the quest for space dominate the characters’ lives.
In this story, space is very important because it means power. People that have money can buy land, construct a building, divide it in cubicles and rent them for people to live there. The owners of the building are usually the ones who look after the cubicles and check they have the correct size which was established by the government. So, they look forward on negotiating with the people living in the cubicles, as happened with Ward and his cubicle in the staircase.
4. What sort of relationship does Ballard put forward between the inner world of the individual (as represented by Ward and Rossiter) and the outer world in which they live. In other words, how does Ballard conceptualise the effect of surviving daily life in a hopelessly over-crowded city on the consciousness of the individual as demonstrated by the ways in which Ward and Rossiter manage the gift of space in the secret room they discover?
Rossiter and Ward criticize the way the government managed the main conflict of the society. They were living in a over crowded city, which the problem was overpopulation. The most of the times, when they wanted to go for a walk, the streets have a pedestrian jam. The government tried to solve the conflict by reducing the size of the cubicles, so as a consequence, they can be more cubicles available for the citizens who did not have a place to live in. At doing this method, the government was not solving the problem as they have more kids and more population, so they finally ended up in the same place. Ward and Rossiter went to live together so that they could share a bigger cubicle and have more space to live.
5. In the story, Ballard does attempt some sort of explanation of the social, political and economic causes of the extreme over-population that has beset the world. Explain his views as they are presented in the story.
The causes of extreme population is that as people aren’t comfortable with having such limited space given by the government they have more child’s so as the government would provide more space. Nevertheless as people are always having more an more childs government provides them less space per person. This makes the world more overcrowded and it never gets to an end.
6. Do you agree with his argument? Do you think that current population growth projections indicate that we are likely to end up in the situation portrayed in the story?
We don’t think that in a future there will be people living in cubicles. However, maybe it would happen the opposite. In europe, young people which can have kids will not have because maybe they can’t maintain them or they just don’t want to have children. So this will be a problem because there it will be a lot of elder people who doesn’t work because they are old and there it will be few young people to work and maintain the country.
7. Describe and analyse Ward’s character in some detail. What values does he hold? Why does Ballard make use of this type of character as the main character for this story?
Ward is used as the main character because as he has a bigger room than others he has a sort of advantage over the rest of the people who have a smaller cubicle. Later in the story Ward has to decide between keeping the staircase cubicle and paying double or sharing it with someone else. The second option wasn’t the best one because the cubicle would be smaller than normal cubicles shared by two people.
8. What role does Rossiter play in the story?
Rossiter´s role in the story, is to be friend with Ward and he is the one who started collecting money from people that wanted to live in their big room. Moreover he represents capitalism as he cares the most about money they than spending time with his friends or having more than three meters.
9.Describe the role of the female characters in the story.
The role of the female that the story present is not a positive one. In the story, Rossiter convinced Ward to let the girls live with them, they took advantage of that situation and brought members of their families into the room too. The female characters took advantage from him.
10.Discuss the effects that overpopulation and its attendant ills has had on the nature of family life in relation to Ward’s family as well as Judith and Helen’s family relationships.
What the effect of overpopulation has had on the nature of family is that the overpopulation was caused by how families wanted to have some more space that they decide to have kids which contribute with this.
11.What does the secret room symbolise in the story?
We think that the secret room symbolizes hope. It also symbolizes freedom. Because they are looking for more space, but instead of having space, they fill the bedroom with victorian furniture (that symbolize overpopulation).
12. Why do you think Ward and Rossiter are unable to keep the gift of space to themselves? Is Ballard making a comment on how our inner world ultimately reflects the shape of the external world in which we live?
The protagonist of the story, Ward and Rossiter, are unable to keep the gift of space to themselves because they were used to live in a small places. So when they found a big place, they started putting big instead of enjoying their space. They also invited people to live with them so as a consecuente, they reduce the space that they had.
13.What sort of living arrangement do they eventually end up allowing (and accommodating to) in their secret room?
At the end of the story, there were seven people living in the secret room, and they divided that room in seven parts so all the people have their own “room”. At the end, they end up living in a smaller place than the cubicles
14.Discuss Ballard’s style and language in the story? Consider also in what ways it is appropriate to the nature of the story being told.
Ballard uses different techniques of speech to emphasize his point of overpopulation. He uses hyperbaton and oxymoron to make the reader understand how he feels towards the society in his time and he wants to prove a point. The story also names the word “cubicle”, by doing this it emphasizes that we as a society are destined to live in a place meant to be in an office