A critical reflection on Margaret Simon’s piece titled Fallen Angels published in The Monthly magazine. https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2015/july/1435672800/margaret-simons/fallen-angels
Image credit: The Monthly
As Janet Malcolm would say, Margaret Simons’ story Fallen Angels makes a “big splash”. This profound story of “what Australian sex tourists leave behind” subtly calls for social change. She tells a narrative which is widely unknown in Australian society and gives a voice to the women of the sex tourism industry.
“The sky bruises at the same time each day,” Simons writes. This opening description creates a stunning image and is beautiful to read. The metaphor of the “bruise” sets and introduces the scene and immediately captures the readers attention.
The description of weather, “the same day recurs”, introduces a circular theme. Life in the Philippines is illustrated as a “vast wheel of actions” and readers are reminded of a continuing cycle, “some of the women themselves are children of sex tourism”.
Like life in Angeles City, Simons story is cyclic. The end returns to the beginning, to the story of Rochelle and her son Kevin. And the ‘bruised sky’ metaphor is repeated in the final paragraph, “every day, in the mid-afternoon, the sky bruises and it rains”.
Simons use of short sentences creates a sense of impact, significance and evokes feelings of shock or dismay; “all of them have Australian fathers”.
Anecdotes create sympathy for Filipino women and a disapproval of Australian sex tourists. Simons projects Filipino sex workers as victims, and Australian men as perpetrators, “he groomed his victim”. She follows the traditional storytelling archetypes of the victim and the villain.
Extensive use of description and detail elicits an aesthetic and emotional response, “[they] look as though they are made of sinew and leather”. Powerful imagery, ”his gut spills over his board shorts”, develops characters; this image characterises the man as greedy and indulging. Descriptions of location, “the laneways are made of compacted rubbish, rubble and dirt”, emphasise the poverty Angeles City characters live in.
The description of Angeles City as the “town of angels” is established in the title, “fallen angels”, and is a continued metaphor. Detailed descriptions, the tourist men “move like lords of creation”, elicit a feeling of disgust or anger in regard to sex tourists.
Facts and statistics legitimise anecdotes and magnify the issue. They also invite readers to trust Simons research and hence her storytelling. Her research and writing process is transparent, she states “some names have been changed”which reinforces trust. Emphasis is placed upon the stories of individuals and emotions are prioritised over hard facts. “Figures are one thing. The experience of being in Angeles City is another”.
Simons switches between third person, “he groomed his victim”, second person, “you sit elbow-to-elbow”, and first person narration, “what was I doing here?”. However, she inserts herself into third person narration through subjective or opinionated statements – “their attitudes belong in the last century”.
“Outside, the faces of the children playing in the streets of Hadrian’s Extension speak of the community of nations.” This story is so powerful because of beautiful observations like this. Simons provides an in depth exploration into the complex issue of sex tourism by telling the stories of the Filipino women and children Australian men have left behind.