The story sea oak by George Saunders employs ideas and images that the reader needs to interpret and decipher more keenly. The reader needs to dig deeper to find the true meaning. Saunders uses metaphors, stereotypes, and satire. Sea oak illustrates the Capitalist society showing the stark contrast between the rich and the poor, the working class, and the non-working class. He argues that one can move up the social ladder, but this comes with a price.
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Freddy says, “You kids make squat. And therefore you live in a dangerous craphole. And what happens in a dangerous craphole? Bad, tragic shit. It’s the freaking American Way – you start in a dangerous craphole and work hard so you can someday move up to a somewhat less dangerous craphole” (Marcus 15)
The price one pays to sell your body. In return, you acquire your earthly desires that you so longed for. This is evidenced by Thomas, who works in a strip club, and Auntie Bernice continually tells Thomas to go out and show his cock. This implies that one has to prostitute oneself to get ahead. She also regrets that she died a virgin, sacrificing a lot for those she cared about, but she has nothing to show in return.
Min and Jade portray the poor as morons who are detested by society for they are clueless about anything. They are illiterates who think “regicide is a virus” (Saunders 5) and argue on the number of sides that a triangle has. They are also lazy individuals who choose to be low instead of working hard. However, Saunders is quick to balance the equation with Auntie Bernice and Thomas. They are hard workers who contribute to the family.
The sea oak illuminates the deplorable living conditions the poor live in. The existence of the crack house, child gangs, and “big scary dawgs” (Marcus 8). The Corporate world is also illuminated by Mr. Frendt, whose only priority is profit. In the end, the individual gets a better school, neighborhood, and the chance to offer his children a better life.