I am the sister who didn't go to war. I can only tell you my side of the story. Hallie is the one who went south, with her pickup truck and her crop-disease books and her heart dead set on a new world.
This quote opens the second chapter of the novel, which is the first chapter narrated by Codi. The first word of the quote is "I," emphasizing the first person narration. In addition, the second line explains the subjective nature of a first person narration, anticipating any criticisms that we might make of the novel as a whole on that account. This opening also foreshadows Hallie's death. The insistence that the story will be one-sided suggests that Hallie will be not only absent but not capable of telling her side of the story. The phrase "going south"—while used here directly to refer to Hallie's literal trip south form Arizona to Nicaragua—is also a colloquial metaphor for dying. Hallie's heart is described as not just "set" but "dead set," again associating her trip with her death. Although Hallie will never become integrated into the primary plots of the novel, she will haunt it from beginning to end.
According to generally agreed-upon history, Hallie and I were home with a baby- sitter. This is my problem—I clearly remember things I haven't seen, sometimes things that never happened. And I draw a blank on the things I've lived through. I told Doc Homer many times that I'd seen the helicopter, and I also once insisted, to the point of tears, that I remembered being on the ship with the nine Gracela sisters and their peacocks.
On her first night in Grace, staying in Emelina's guest house, Codi takes a walk by herself, wondering if she can still find the path to Doc Homer's. As she wanders, she ponders her childhood memories, focusing here on the night her mother died. Codi's confusion surrounding the memory points to the great problems of memory and invention, history and myth, and secrecy and revelation, that run throughout the novel. Codi thinks that her memory of her childhood is completely unreliable. While her memory of the nine Gracela sisters is truly the result of an overactive imagination, this is not the case with her memory of her mother's death. The secrets and prohibitions of the community have only led Codi to believe that the two memories are equally unreal. Similarly, Codi's belief that she has almost no real memories of her childhood will slowly be revealed to be only the effect of such sustained separation from the community where she grew up.
The stones were mostly the same shape, rectangular, but all different sizes; there would be a row of large stones, and then tow or three thinner rows, then a coupe of middle-sized rows. There was something familiar about the way they fit together. In a minute it came to me. They looked just like cells under a microscope.
On their first big date, after several months of casual courtship, Loyd takes Codi up into the Indian reservations where he grew up. He shows her the prehistoric "condos" built by the Pueblo over 800 years earlier. The characterization of the Pueblo architecture is typical of the utopic view of Native America presented in the novel. Native Americans live in perfect harmony with the earth, while at the same time achieving great cultural advances that cast United States cultural achievements—symbolized by the Washington Monument—in shadow. As she compares the architecture to cells under a microscope, Codi underlines the organic as well as the highly sophisticated nature of Pueblo architecture. By her assertion that there was something familiar to her about the structure, Codi also associates herself as somehow naturally linked to the Native Americans, possibly through her scientific knowledge.
As in this passage, Animal Dreams contains a great deal of dialogue. This allows Loyd to speak for himself, even though he is not one of the narrators. It also quickens the pace of the novel, contributing to the ease of its style.
By the time they were back in Grace on the last evening bus, I was later informed, the Stitch and Bitch Club had already laid plans to come back in ten days with five hundred peacock piñatas. There would only be two deviations from the original plan. First, each piñata would be accompanied by a written history of Grace and its heroic struggle against the Black Mountain Mining Company. To my shock I was elected, in absentia, to write this epic broadside and get it mimeographed at the school
After learning from Codi that Grace could be saved if the water were cleaned up instead of diverted, the women of the town devote themselves to the cause in whatever way they can. They come up with the idea to sell their local craft, peacock piñatas, in Tucson to raise money. Codi and Emelina join the group in Tucson but then stay the weekend while everyone else returns to Grace.
The women's decision to accompany the peacocks with information shows their astute organizing skills. Their plan to make 500 piñatas in ten days is evidence of their tireless devotion. Where the mayor's calls to local newspapers failed, they have found a way to publicize their cause. Codi still thinks of herself as an outsider to Grace, but in the eyes of the others, she has become a member of the community.
In the middle of that gray month Emelina's youngest son learned to walk. I was alone with him when it happened. The sun had come out briefly as I walked home form school, and the baby and I were both anxious to be outdoors. Emelina asked if I could just not let him eat any real big bugs, and I promised to keep an eye out. I settled with a book in the courtyard, which was radiant with sudden sunlight. The flowers were beaten down, their bent-over heads bejeweled with diamond droplets like earrings on sad, rich widows.
It is February, two months since Hallie's abduction. They have received no new information. In her depression, Codi has stopped seeing Loyd almost completely and barely keeps her classes going. In the midst of all this, life goes on. This passage is a beautiful example of the way perspective is given to each of the characters' individual concerns. The focus on fertility and on Native American culture gives a sense of the bigger picture and of the cyclical nature of the world. This is a small but extremely touching example of the same concept. The boy is referred to not by his name, Nicholas, but by his status, as the youngest of Emelina's sons. This establishes the scene as not simply referring to one individual incident, but as symbolizing the general continuation of life even in the face of such great tragedy. In addition, this passage exemplifies the natural imagery employed throughout the novel. The weather is used throughout to reflect the emotions of the characters. Here the rain symbolizes Codi's sadness, while the burst of sun both allows and represents the possibility for renewal. Trees and plants are described in great detail and in great abundance, throughout Animal Dreams, making the novel not only about the land, but also a literal assurance that the novel is based on and is made up of natural elements.
Take a Study Break!