“Poverty does away with shame and your courtesies.” (Mujila 30)
Environment plays a major factor in molding behavior and morality. In particular, the behavior and morality of the individual within said environment shape the ethics for others. This raises the real question: who or what contributes to their morality? Through Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s, Tram 83, the dynamics of poverty depraving virtue is explored.
Tram 83‘s plot unfolds within a banana republic governed by a subversive General that impedes progression for the inhabitants. The mining fields discriminately affect the poor population’s livelihood due to mining powering the economy’s health. The local’s hopes and dreams become crushed by these mining fields and, as a result, live a stagnant lifestyle filled with debauchery. The residents quench their thirst within the confines of an infamous and seedy nightclub: the Tram 83. Mujila places characters with contrasting personalities to examine the dynamics of society’s ethical behavior. Lucien is an intellectual with a firm conviction to write about humanity’s virtuousness. Requiem has a pessimistic outlook towards society and manipulates others to achieve a higher position than everybody around him.
Poverty is undoubtedly seen everywhere within Tram 83. Through the poorly constructed buildings and the “metal structure [that] is unfinished” (Mujila 2), the dilapidation of buildings exudes the poor economy residents reside with. Due to this impoverished state, morality and behavior are as absent as their financial livelihood. For instance, the population’s diet consists of cats, dogs, and rats “barbecued with potatoes and accompanied by chili peppers and an ice-cold beer.” (Mujila 128) The City-State’s population are confused why others (the Europeans in specific) show “tenderness” to these animals when they are just seen as food. The General’s son even states he couldn’t “bear watching” the French exhibit their love for the dogs and wanted at least “a little attention and love” himself (Mujila 129). This not only emphasizes the scarcity of resources but also demonstrates the irony behind eating the very same animals that have what they most need: kindness.
Kindness is needed to guide them through this turbulent state they are left in. The need to unite and not put one another down is necessary to support each other’s livelihood. However, the poverty-stricken conditions forced upon the population chips away sentimental affections and leave them in a depraved state. Morality and values are seen as weak but indulgence becomes widely accepted. As it result, debauchery becomes the common basis of their own created morality.