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Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture - Part 3, Chapters 30 and 31 and Epilogue Summary & Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 40 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Generation X.
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Part 3, Chapters 30 and 31 and Epilogue Summary

"Await Lightning"

The chapter begins with Andy's description of being caught in a traffic jam while attempting to cross into Mexico. He then explains why he's there - Claire and Dag left him notes explaining they've decided to go down to Mexico to open a hotel and inviting him to join them. Dag also explains how he managed to avoid being charged for the vandalism of Bunny Hollander's car. Andy's narration then returns to the traffic, where he sees the fence that serves as the border and realizing that he, Claire and Dag have chosen to live on the more barren side of the metaphoric fence in their lives - "Dag doomed forever to gaze longingly at his sun; Claire forever traversing her sands with her [stick]..." He then describes his own situation in two stories. The first is of a young man who left his life behind to go searching for an opportunity to be struck by lightning. He starts to tell the second story as though "it's about a young man - oh get real," he writes, "it's about me. It's about me and something else I want desperately to have happen to me, more than just about anything." He describes himself lying in the sun on the rocks, dying by bits and pieces - until a pelican gives him the gift of "a small silvery fish. I would sacrifice anything," he adds, "to be given this offering."

"Jan. 01, 2000"

On New Year's Day (for the significance of the chapter heading, see "Style - Setting"), Andy describes how, after crossing the border and being gifted with two large oranges from a friendly farmer, he sees what looks like a mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion, but which he eventually realizes is the smoke from a burned off field. He, like other travelers, pulls to a stop and discovers that the land is black, like charcoal, and that a beautiful white bird is circling the field, looking for food. He describes the arrival of a bus load of mentally disabled young people, all of whom are at first excited by what they're seeing but who fall silent when they register the beauty of the white bird against the black land. They become loud and excited again when the bird begins to circle the watching crowd, flying lower and lower until it actually grazes and cuts Andy's head before it flies off to the blackened field and starts hunting. It's a while before Andy realizes he's actually bleeding, and in the moment he does he's hugged by first one and then all of the disabled young people, "dog-piled by an instant family, in their adoring, healing, uncritical embrace ... this crush of love was unlike anything I had ever known." As the man supervising the young people leaves him alone with all this affection, going to look at the bird on the black field, Andy concludes his narration, of this incident and of the book, by saying he "can't remember whether [he]" said thank you.

"Numbers"

A brief appendix lists several statistics, comparing figures (on marriage, income, television usage, cost of living, job satisfaction) from the pre-eighties and nineties to the later eighties and nineties.

Part 3, Chapters 30 and 31 and Epilogue Analysis

Again, there are several important components at work in this section. The life-changing move to Mexico (where the hotel may or may not become the sort of hotel referred to by Dag in his fantasy in Chapter 20) is a manifestation of the change at work in the lives of the three friends, a process accepted (to varying degrees) by Andy and Claire and still avoided (to some degree) by Dag. An interesting question to consider at this point is whether Andy's perception of Dag and Claire being on the same desolate side of the fence running through their lives is accurate. Claire is certainly a different person from when she started - there is the very strong sense that the Claire of the early chapters would never have told the story of her breakup with Tobias as honestly as she does. It may be, in fact, that Andy is still too self-absorbed to see anyone's breakthrough but his own - he recognizes (and indeed celebrates in the novel's final chapter) how he is now more than ever living an honest, self-true life, but doesn't seem able to recognize that the same thing has happened to Claire. Meanwhile, the description of the dream about the pelican and the fish can be seen as a foreshadowing of the joyous encounter (between white and black, between destruction and rebirth, between self-repression and joy) that explodes into the following, and final chapter.

As has been the case when it's been referred to on other occasions (specifically in Dag's story in Chapter 11), a nuclear explosion (or in this case what Andy perceives as a nuclear explosion) has an ambivalent meaning. Both destructive (as manifest in the black field) and triggering of new life (as manifest in the appearance of the white bird and its ability to feed), the nuclear explosion is a metaphor for the emotional/spiritual explosions in the lives of the central characters - or at least, in the transforming explosions that take place for Andy and Claire. Dag, as previously discussed, seems to have moved less far along the journey to selfishness than the other two. One last point to note here about the encounter with the bird is Andy's narrative reference to the "instant family", perhaps a manifestation of the unconditional love, support and celebration that he probably feels he never got from his own. For further consideration of the black field/white bird image, see "Objects/Places" and "Themes - The Value of Friendship."

Finally, the very brief but somehow very chilling list of numbers and figures the author includes after the final chapter somehow undermines the joy of the final image, but not to any debilitating degree. There is the very clear sense that these numbers, all of which are attributed to factual sources, are clear indications of the forces against which, and within which, Andy, his friends, his fellow Generation X-ers, and perhaps everyone else, must struggle in order to achieve personal truth, fulfillment, and integrity.

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