Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Summer Break

In the words of Porky the Pig, "That's all folks!" I hope you've enjoyed my "Quality Project" for English 2. If you've become a fan, please bookmark this blog, and check back in a year or two, because I do plan on continuing to do this for books I read in college and later in my life. Don't forget to check out my previous posts, if this is the first one you see. And as we go into our summer vacations (some of us, at least), may we not forget the beauties of nature. As we say in Hawaii, Mahalo nui loa. Thank you very much.
As the rain moves
from the mountain to the sea,
so shall words move,
such that they always move me.

~Father Nature, Editor

Friday, May 8, 2009

Animal Dreams: Stunning Similes

"I'd seen photographs of lighting frozen in its terrible splendor, rippling like a knife down the curtains of the sky" (Animal 305-6).

"But the letters ended, finite as a book or a life" (Animal 300).

"The flowers were beaten down, their bent-over heads bejeweled with diamond droplets like earrings on sad, rich widows" (Animal 272).

"In the past, the two-week delay of her letters had caused me to keep a distrustful eye on Hallie, like a star so many light years away it could have exploded long ago while we still watched its false shine" (Animal 270).

"I walked downtown among strangers, smiling, anonymous as a goldfish" (Animal 200).

"My life is a pitiful, mechanical thing without a past, like a little wind-up car, ready to run in any direction somebody points me" (Animal 199).

"Bugs swirled in the headlights like planets cut loose from their orbits, doomed to chaos" (Animal 191).

"He looked at me, his eyes searching back and forth between my two pupils as if he were trying to decide which door concealed the prize" (Animal 183).

"Leaves and aborted fruits fell in thick, brittle handfuls like the hair of a cancer patient" (Animal 173).

"The picture slowly gives up its soul to him as it lies in the pan, like someone drowned at the bottom of the pool" (Animal 142).

"I kept turning my mind away from the one thought that kept coming back to me, persistent as an unwanted lover's hand, that I'd saved a life" (Animal 117).

"I know that a woman's ambitions aren't supposed to fall and rise and veer off course this way, like some poor bird caught in a storm" (Animal 107).

"The end was always curled up between us, like a sleeping cat, present even in our love-making" (Animal 105).

"Her eyes were pale as marbles" (Animal 105).

"Kissing Loyd was delicious, like some drug I wanted more of in spite of the Surgeon General's warning" (Animal 105).

"His family is a web of women dead and alive, with himself at the center like a spider, driven by different instincts. He lies mute, hearing only in the tactile way that a spider hears, touching the threads of the web with long extended fingertips and listening. Listening for trapped life" (Animal 98).

"The mother had been tortured and her eyes offered out that flatness, like a zoo animal" (Animal 93).

"I went home to read it, like a rat scurrying back to its hole with some edible prize" (Animal 86).

"Slowly it grew to a force as strong and untouchable as thunder" (51).

"Hallie thrived anyway--the blossom of our family, like the one of those miraculous fruit trees that taps into an invisible vein of nurture and bears radiant bushels of plums while the trees around it merely go on living" (Animal 49).

"I stood still for a minute, giving Hallie's and my thoughts their last chance to run quietly over the wires, touching each other in secret signal as they passed, like a column of ants" (Animal 34).

"I could see just how we'd look to somebody, hanging on to each other by the elbows: like two swimmers in trouble, both of us equally likely to drown" (Animal 31).

"His brain gets jostled and things move around inside his head like olives in a jar of brine" (Animal 20).

"Acacias lean into the river with their branches waving wildly in the current, like mothers reaching in for lost babies" (Animal 19).

"I tended to drift, like a well-meaning visitor to this planet awaiting instructions" (Animal 10).

"Hallie and I were so attached, like keenly mismatched Siamese twins conjoined at the back of the mind. We parted again and again and still each time it felt like a medical risk, as if we were being liberated at some terrible cost: the price of a shared organ. We never stopped feeling that knife” (Animal 8).

“His two girls are curled together like animals whose habit is to sleep underground, in the smallest space possible” (Animal 3)

~Father Nature, Editor

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Animal Dreams: Meticulous Metaphors: Rapacious Rivers

"The river won't flow for you no, no, no" wrote Jason Robert Brown in his album, "Songs For A New World." I wonder if Brown knew the significance of his lyrics as he wrote these words. The rivers present in Kingsolver’s mind definitely won’t flow for us, but rather of their own accord….

In Animal Dreams, Kingsolver uses a pretty straightforward idea of the pollution of our rivers and rainforests to assert a much more unusual claim. How could she create a deep metaphor using an idea that the everyday person thinks about? She’s Barbara Kingsolver, that’s how.

Before twisting our thinking, Kingsolver uses rivers with their everyday metaphor meaning: an obstacle. Homero has his own “river [that] he can’t cross,” and on the other side of it is his children” (Animal 4). This isn’t meant literally; it’s metaphor, so of course the idea should have more depth than the idea of crossing a road! Something about Homero’s personality distances him from connecting with others, even his own flesh and blood. Whether these are feelings of angst because of his wife’s death, narrowed and aimed toward his daughters, or whether he’s going through hard times since his daughters left him, we’ll never know. But nonetheless, his attitude toward them created a mental river that neither party wanted to attempt to cross, because they were both simply safer on their separate sides of the river.

The next image Kingsolver creates is that of Codi leaving her baby out along the creek bank, in a dream, during a time when the “creek is flooded, just roaring” (Animal 51). The creek of Grace increases in intimidation as Codi fears it has the power to lure her baby into its dark, wet depths. But a dream is just a dream. Using Codi’s dream as a piece of evidence for this metaphor would ruin the data, right?

But Codi says herself that “there would be nothing new or surprising about a baby being born in secret and put into a creek,” which is true for all of the most depressing reasons (Animal 51). Even if Codi’s baby wasn’t left in a creek to die, I’ve heard horror stories or seen images of babies floating down a stream. The most popular, of course, being the story of Moses.

I think it can be agreed that a river is scariest when it is described as “a fierce river of mud and uprooted trees that won’t crest until dawn” (Animal 19). In fact, flooding has hit America hard in the past decade, with hurricanes manifesting more and more often. Yet, as we see when Kingsolver preaches her “go-green” message of this novel, a river can become “poison” the minute “sulfuric” is “put in the river” (Animal 63).

When a society, culture, or village is built around trees to the point that “when you have a family, you need trees,” they should be sacred (Animal 217). Any precious resource needs to be used sparingly, especially since the land can’t provide for humans forever. This is Kingsolver’s message with this metaphor. Our handy dandy work putting sulfuric acid into a river to leach it kills the land, and “the land has a memory. The lakes and the rivers are still hanging on to the DDT and every other insult we ever gave them. Lake Superior is a superior cesspool. The fish have cancer. The ocean is getting used up. The damn air is getting used up” (Animal 255). And we think that we can just waltz on by and water the trees from the river, but that would be “just like acid rain falling on them” (Animal 176).

Raymo, an oddball character in Hallie’s class brave enough to stand up to her, claims, “trees grow back” (Animal 254). This leads to Hallie’s, rather Kingsolver’s, sarcastic voice that I just love: “Sure. Trees grow back. Even a whole rainforest could grow back, in a couple hundred years maybe” (Animal 255). Nobody is here that “will clean up the mess” if everyone’s “attitude stinks,” for the “world was put here for [us] to use” (Animal 254). The usage of the rivers of the world isn’t the problem; leaving our influence on them by first polluting the earth, then “damming the [rivers]” because they are “so polluted with acid” is the real problem (Animal 266). Who gave us the right to stroll across the universe with the mindset that it’s okay to harm whatever we touch? God? Adam and Eve? Buddha? The President?

“In a desert place” such as Grace, Arizona, “only the river ran continuously” (Animal 270). The land remembers, and “the river was Grace’s memory of water” (Animal 270). Rivers are larger than us. Sometimes things we think nothing more of than obstacles are things that were there before we were. We’re walking on the earth. We came second. We are all obstacles that this world needs to overcome. And, of course, we’re here to help the earth do exactly that.

~Father Nature, Editor

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Animal Dreams: A Whole New World

Consider a broken toy left under the bed. Bugs need to crawl around it, even if it's an obstruction too heavy to handle. You feel it every time you reach under the bed, however you force yourself to ignore it.

This is exactly how I perceive America to be treating Nicaragua in this story, based on the thoughts of Cosima as she reads the letters written to her by Hallie. However, this isn't the world of the novel. Codi is in Grace, Arizona, with her father, Dr. Homero Noline. But Kingsolver ties the Civil War of Nicaragua into almost every chapter. We learn just as much about Hallie's life in Nicaragua as Codi's life in Grace. Therefore, imagine a world with two dimensions. For that is what this novel features. Two anti-parallel worlds, one heading toward destruction while the other leads its inhabitants on a path of joy and peace.

Hallie is the sister living in chaos. I wouldn't be able to identify this as a Kingsolver novel without a sense of tragedy attached to it, and this time Kingsolver incorporates it without actually having the tragic character make an appearance. She went to Nicaragua "to save the crops" (Animal 30). However, "Hallie was headed for a war zone" (Animal 32). But she couldn't stop. It didn't matter to her if "no U.S. citizen could go there without expecting to be caught in crossfire," because she believes in what she's doing (Animal 271). I'm actually inspired by Hallie's determination to stay in Nicaragua, because her selflessness is rare.

However, is she being selfless or striving to be recognized as heroic by her sister? Imagine a world where you know there is good to be done, but you must put yourself in danger every second of your life in order to do it. The rational thing to do would be to leave; there are other locations in need of an environmentalist. Hallie was aiming to be seen as a martyr! When she sees the "active-duty National Guards" shooting down at the Nicaraguans, she is scared, yet unshaken. Her determination is unhealthy. The only trap that can ensnare her is the one set by herself. Codi sees Hallie as "a loved one sending [her] truth from the trenches," and on a certain level, that's all Hallie is (Animal 199).

But how can Hallie put Codi in the position of distress over her life? Hallie must know how Codi feels about her, because she makes it clear in the way she writes and the way she speaks about Codi to others. There is no way Hallie could've hid her worry for Codi's safety from her. Hallie's selflessness is actually recklessness. In a world where one puts others ultimately first, one's own life is the most at risk. And that, for Codi, is the most traumatizing thing that could possibly happen.

While Codi's world revolves around her sister, and her sister's world is breaking into more pieces with every passing second, Codi has some stability in her world that her sister can't touch. The significant person in her life that has changed her world for the better would have to be Loyd Peregrina, the father of her baby that "he didn't even know about" (Animal 131). Codi takes one trademark of Hallie to heart: selflessness. Codi would do anything to keep the newly re-bonded relationships steady. She "didn't want [Loyd] to know how much of a mark his careless love had made on [her] life," how much of an impact he was on her (Animal 132). She would take the blame until the last second, living in a world where "everybody's got a secret" (Animal 92). Except, she is the only secret keeper, and everyone around her wants in on her secrets.

With Loyd waiting patiently on the wayside for her love, how else could Codi react? She obviously loved him once, for the baby they share meant something to her. While "a miscarriage is a natural and comment event," it is one that is completely unnatural to those uncommon with it. Namely everyone other than the mothers of stillborns. It's not a subject that Codi could've just suddenly spit out during a love-making session with Loyd. She was walking on thin ice, with nothing but cold as death water waiting for her underneath, pounding against her bare feet to FALL.

But it's enduring that feeling, keeping the "small impossible secret" for as long as possible, that saved Codi's relationship and brought her back to secure, solid ground (Animal 51). When she waits for that opportune moment, bringing Loyd to their child's gravesite, Kingsolver puts us on edge, waiting to see if Loyd will be the one to crack her ice and send her plummeting into a subzero grave of her own. Codi would lose her sense of self if Loyd wasn't accepting of the child. Codi's world was dependent on a single decision of another.

These two worlds, both alike in dignity, are anti-parallel because of their opposite lasting effects. Codi's life turns out positive, with that hint of despair coming from the parallel dimension, her sister's world. Hallie's life is "a train. Once it gets going it's heavier than heaven and hell put together and it runs on its own track" and it will flatten everything in its path, including Codi. Codi has the power to "remain in the world, knowledgeable and serene," but Codi's train of desolation will be her utter downfall (Animal 309).

~Father Nature, Editor