Baby-Chicks as Symbols of Corruption

In Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s novel, Tram 83, the baby-chicks symbolize the corruption of the City-State, revealing the destructive relationship between wealth and those impoverished by its desperate pursuit. The baby-chicks, prized for their youth and casual attitude toward sex, are used by the men of the City-Sate without regard to the baby-chicks age, health, or future. The risky nature of prostitution leaves many baby-chicks victims of, according to Lucien’s list, abortion, childbirth, rape, pneumonia, sequestration, and sexually transmitted diseases (Mujila 76). Despite the pleasure they bring their clients, the baby-chicks are left to fend for themselves and at great cost. This attitude parallels the corruption and desperation of the City-State, in which mines are divvied out as political favors and shut down as punishment. The tourists, or foreigners who develop mining operations, use the City-State’s mines and to the disadvantage of its native citizens. The mines use great quantities of electricity and, rather than investing in the City-State’s utilities or taxing the tourists, the dissident General opts to turn off citizen’s electricity on a regular basis and at increasingly frequent intervals. About the dissident General’s methods we’re told,

“As time passed, he adjusted his decree to two days, then one, then two hours, reasoning that the processing plants for the minerals so dear to the tourists require more electrical power, that the inhabitants of the City-State don’t have much need for it” (Mujila 73).

By restricting power usage to benefit the tourists, the dissident General is stunting the development of the City-State. The baby-chicks represent this restriction on potential, serving as temporary attractions until their health or age inevitably end their careers. Both the baby-chick’s profession and the exploitation of the City-State are unsustainable. Shortcuts to wealth taken by government officials and the tourists damage the nation’s infrastructure and hasten its collapse.


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