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


  1. I didn't actually read all of that but I like your use of pictures.

  2. Sue Sullivan5/26/2009 1:05 AM


    You bring up really interesting points that make the text seem interesting, regardless of if we have read it or not. You tie in great examples of real life situations and show how this connects with the book. Great job!