Animal Dreams

by: Barbara Kingsolver

Motifs

Medicine and doctors

Doctors help to preserve the fertility of their patients. By weaving a doctor motif, and particularly by emphasizing the role of obstetrics and genetics in the medical professions, Kingsolver adds emphasis to the fertility theme throughout the novel. The motif of medicine and doctors is found not only in the great number of characters who are doctors, but also in the preponderance of medical metaphors, especially in the sections narrated in the third person.

The medical professions, naturally, are relied on when someone needs to be saved. Working in emergency rooms, Carlo embodies this element of being a doctor. This is precisely the connection that makes Codi uncomfortable. She does not like the way that, as someone who has almost completed medical school, she is expected to be able to cure and to save people, which stems in great part from Codi's pessimism. She does not believe that the world can be saved, and so on a microcosmic level she does not believe that she can save any one individual person.

Distance

The motif of distance has both literal and metaphoric elements in Animal Dreams. Metaphoric distance exists between characters. It appears in an inability to communicate and especially to express love. In order to create metaphorically fertile community and fertile families, that distance must be overcome. The members of the community must talk with each other about the past and about their present in order to save Grace. On a literal level, Codi approaches Grace at the beginning of the novel and again at the end. While her first approach is tentative and uncomfortable, the second is permanent and joyful.