Friday, April 24, 2009

Prodigal Summer: Meticulous Metaphors: Extinct Ghosts

Ghosts make the embodiment of the next metaphor, as previously mentioned. The ghosts of Kingsolver's mind are not poltergeists, ghastly, or mal-intended. Rather, they represent the lost, forgotten, lifeless souls of extinct animals. Lusa calls herself "as free and disembodied as a ghost" when "she was free" because her husband, now past, wasn't lying with her in the morning (Summer 48). This starts the reader off with believing that ghosts are positive beings that are okay to compare yourself to. However, the general outlook on ghosts is the complete opposite.

So which ghost is Kingsolver implying in her metaphor? Are ghosts her pathway to stating a deep and precise point, which I just don't understand? Based on the prying of her work thus far, I think that every metaphor repeated at least twice has a depth that the reader really has to dig to discover.
With this mindset, I have observed that Kingsolver has used ghosts to describe extinction three times: "The ghost of a creature long extinct was coming in on silent footprints" (Summer 63). "As if they were already ghosts, mourning their future extinction" (Summer 66). "He was haunted by the ghosts of these old chestnuts, by the great emptiness their extinction had left in the world" (Summer 128). This metaphor makes sense, because extinct species are ghosts of life. This would match Kingsolver's nature theme because it serves as an outreach to save endangered species from becoming extinct; saving animals from becoming ghosts. However, the essence of Kingsolver has left its mark on this metaphor; we can dig deeper.

Kingsolver's metaphor deepens just as a murder plot thickens: "Lusa... was living among ghosts" (Summer 76). Kingsolver describes the scene as having "ghosts everywhere, even here in the neutral guest bedroom where Lusa had hardly spent an hour of her life before this" (Summer 75). This perspective portrays ghosts as a metaphor for memories. When in mourning, Lusa sees ghosts everywhere in her life. One would assume that a widow would see images of her late husband all around her household, even in places she hardly spent time in. When something is constantly on your mind, you may start imagining that it becomes real. This must be the depth that Kingsolver wanted to get to for the first 350 pages of this novel.

However, Lusa actually gives an explanation for the ghosts she speaks of. By ghosts, she means "stuff you can't see...certain kinds of love you can't see" (Summer 357). She says that she believes in this invisible love. So, then, ghosts represent invisible love? Could it possibly be the love of her late husband? I think that when digging deeper, we can't forget what we've already dug through. I think that we are correct in discovering the truth to this metaphor if we combine the different tiers of it.

So, ghosts are a metaphor for the invisible memories of love that Lusa has as a widower, yet also the love Garrett and Deanna share for extinct species. They don't want to see any more trees or animals become extinct, and ghosts, the embodiment of things past, remind them of what they don't want to think about: the inevitable "future extinction" of all things (Summer 66).

~Father Nature, Editor

1 comment:

  1. i can tell you really thought this through daniel. i liked that you asked a lot of questions throughout.It helped me to think along with you. And one question i had was why do you think she chose ghosts to represent these things? Ghosts are, at first reaction, scary things... why chose them to represent love? Is she saying something about the un-grasp-able qualities of love?