Here in the United States, I don’t think that we have an idea of that concept. In this country, we have what is called the “poverty line. ” This is a measure of poverty by our sociological standards. In the great scheme of things, however, is that really poverty compared to other places in the world? I think not. Flavio’s Home is an essay taken from the autobiography of Gordon Parks, a photographer for Life magazine.
In it, Parks illuminates the appalling poverty within Catacumbia, a favela (Brazilian Portuguese for slum) on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. Parks experienced the squalid conditions and attitude of the people while interacting with one boy, Flavio da Silva, and his family. Parks’ in-depth observation of the deplorable conditions in this shantytown paints a stunning picture of absolute poverty in one of the poorest areas of the world. Parks comes upon Flavio as the boy is fetching water for his family.
His assignment is to highlight the life of an impoverished father, but when he sees Flavio, he knows that he can learn much more about the poverty in the region from this boy. Parks uses a narrative rhetorical strategy to convey the plight of the family. He relays an account of their daily struggles, family dynamics, and the health issues caused by starvation. In this selection, their living conditions are painted in an appalling light. When he describes the scene, and how the family interacts on an interpersonal level, I can sense their desperation coming through the page.
At some points, they seem to be extremely agitated with one another, as in the part where Maria dips a spoonful of beans out of the pot, and Luzia says that she’s going to tell on her for stealing. Parks uses very emotional language in this article, and I sense from his writing that he detests poverty and the issues that cause it. The apathy of Flavio’s father is another issue where I feel Parks’ anger seeping through his words in a very slight way. Though he doesn’t come right out and say it, the picture he paints of Jose da Silva is not a flattering one.
Flavio’s father seems to be a detached, uncaring, and abusive figure. Flavio’s Home is a great article. I felt that Parks did a very effective job in highlighting extreme poverty. The descriptive language and matter-of-fact tone of the essay were instrumental in catching my attention and holding it. I felt that these two points were the most powerful aspects of his writing. On the other hand, the ending should have been more informative. At this point, Parks takes Flavio to the doctor, and the physician is not optimistic about the boy’s chances for survival.
Near the end of the narrative, Flavio tells the writer: “Papa says El Cristo has turned his back on the favela. ” He is referring to the Christ the Redeemer statue, atop Corcovado Mountain, and the fact that it faces away from the misery of the favela. Then he relates the fact that he’s not afraid of death. He says that he is more afraid for his brothers and sisters, than he is of dying. While this demonstrates the powerful love Flavio has for his family, I feel that there should have been more. After that, Parks simply tells the boy: “You’ll be alright Flavio. Considering the negative tone of this paragraph, and the dire prognosis of the doctor, I didn’t know whether he was telling him this because he was going to help him, or simply to ease his mind in his last days. If it hadn’t been for the editor’s note, I wouldn’t have known what became of Flavio. I’m certain that many Life readers felt the same way when this article was first published. When I read this article, I asked myself some questions about poverty, including the one in my opening paragraph. What is absolute poverty?
In the materialistic society that we live in today, we simply have no idea. We have so many wonderful social programs in this country, yet people still take for granted all that we as Americans are blessed with. They carelessly take advantage of the system, and in doing so, drive up our national debt. The poverty line, compared to other places in the world, is not poverty at all. It may be here, but based on what priorities? Most people I know that live at or below the poverty line have cable television. They have money for new clothes.
They sell drugs to supplement their income, and most of them make more money than me in doing this! We live in a society where family and people are less important than what they have. Our self worth is based on our possessions. Who we are is not as important as what we possess. Our perspective is in startling contrast to Flavio’s. I think the message that Parks was trying to communicate was one of awareness. That we need to be aware of what is going on in the world, take action if possible, and remember to have gratitude for all that we have.