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Animal Dreams

Barbara Kingsolver

Chapters 22–24

Chapters 20–21

Chapters 24–26

Summary

Chapter 22: Endangered Places

Rain falls for the whole month of February, and the trees burst into bloom. No news arrives from Hallie. Codi calls the Nicaraguan Minister of Agriculture weekly, but she is only told that Hallie's case is one of thousands and that there is nothing to do but wait. With the help of the women from the Stitch and Bitch Club, Codi writes hundreds of letters to elected US officials and to media sources, but to little avail. Everyone in Grace tries to be understanding, but there is nothing they can do. Codi stops going to Doc Homer's for dinner. She can barely sleep. In the middle of the month, Emelina's baby, Nicholas, learns to walk as Codi watches.

The peacock sales and the publicity draw the Stitch and Bitch Club a great deal of money. They put it in the bank, unsure of what to do next, until Sean Rideheart, an art dealer from Tucson, arrives in Grace. He visits often during the month of March, talking to the women about the piñatas. When he is invited to be a guest speaker at the Stitch and Bitch Club's monthly meeting, Sean Rideheart proposes a plan that could save Grace. If Grace and its trees can be declared a historic reserve and get listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it will receive national protection from the kind of destruction the polluted water and the dam wreak on the town. Mr. Rideheart explains exactly how to apply for historic place status. The only hitch is that they have to fund all of the documentation themselves; they have more than enough money to do that, thanks to the peacock sales.

Around the same time, Carlo invites Codi to move to Telluride with him. Although she has no particular desire to return to Carlo, the letter makes her realize that she does need to make plans for the following year. Since their return from Santa Rosalia Pueblo, Codi and Loyd have spent little time together. In addition to her intense depression over her sister's disappearance, Codi feels terribly guilty for having been off enjoying herself when the call came from Nicaragua.

Over Spring break, Doc Homer goes to Tucson for a CAT scan. He tells no one except for Uda Dell and only because he needs her to keep an eye on his house while he's gone. Uda tells Codi and also asks if Codi thinks Uda could go in and clean the house while Doc Homer is gone. Codi suggests that they go together. In the attic, they discover that Doc Homer has neatly stored everything from old shoes to photo albums, dating back to before Codi was born.

They discover a box of photographs of newborn babies' eyes Doc Homer had taken for the genetics paper he wrote on a phenomenon peculiar to Grace. As a side- effect of inbreeding, all of the children who are descended both paternally and maternally from the five Gracela sisters are born with marble-white eyes. As they look through the box, Uda points out pictures of both Codi and Hallie. Codi is shocked to discover that not only her father, but also her mother, was a native of Grace. She remembers Viola's comment that everyone but Doc Homer called her mother Althea and suddenly connects that it was Doña Althea's family and her mother's family who hated Doc Homer and that it was not because he was an outsider.

Chapter 23: The Souls of Beasts

After his return from Tucson, with a positive diagnosis of Alzheimer's, Doc Homer's mind deteriorates rapidly. He rarely remembers what has happened to Hallie, or who or how old Codi is. Codi stays by his side, trying to catch him in a lucid moment so that she can ask him more about her mother. Indirectly, he admits that Codi's mother was related to Doña Althea, but the family didn't want her to marry him because he was a Nolina, who had the reputation of being a bad family. Despite Codi's arguments to the contrary, Doc Homer thinks he renounced his family only to become an unloved outsider in the community.

To her great surprise in early April, Codi receives a letter from the school board informing her that her contract has been renewed for the following year. The letter acknowledges her great popularity among the students and commends her for her innovation and development in the curriculum. She takes the letter straight to Loyd's house.

At Loyd's, Codi shows him the letter proudly but still says she doesn't plan to stay. For the first time, Codi asks Loyd about his work on the trains. He describes the complicated process of breaking. That night, Codi tells Loyd about the photographs and everything she's been thinking for the past few months. Codi mentions the importance of her fifteenth year, but when Loyd asks her what happened when she was fifteen, she offers him only a vague answer. As Loyd tries to comfort her and to tell her how much she is wanted in Grace, Codi realizes that by not informing him about their child, she keeps herself just far enough apart from him to leave whenever she wants.

Finally, Codi reads all of Hallie's letters. She struggles to understand Hallie's advice that "the very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope." Codi rereads all of Hallie's letters, looking for some sign of hope or else for a farewell message, but she finds neither. That night, Codi has the same nightmare she has had many times before of going blind, but she realizes that it is a dream of the flash from her father's camera, as he photographed her eyes when she was a newborn. She goes on dreaming of her own child, and of herself burying it by the riverbed, with Hallie at her side.

Analysis

Although the government's faulty policies are responsible for Grace's impending doom, they are also responsible for the possibility of its salvation. Just as Codi must reach into her own family history in order to give her life a sense of purpose, so will the people of Grace need to draw on the history of their community in order to spare the river from damming: the only way to save Grace is to register it with the federal government as a Historic Place. It is not, however, thanks to the mayor or any other government official that the women learn about the possibility of registering Grace as a Historic Place. The piñata sales attracted an art collector, a private citizen who through his own line of work is an expert in US history and in the efforts to preserve it. The information is shared not in a town meeting, but at the Stitch and Bitch Club, which has become almost a parallel governing body. The great difference between the Stitch and Bitch Club and the town meetings, however, is the gender balance. Where the lawyers employed by the men can come up with only a ten-year lawsuit, the direct action of the women leads to a serendipitous connection that will allow an almost immediate remedy. It is only outside of the patriarchal structure that positive action can be taken, although some of that action does include accessing elements of the structure.

Codi's research into the history of Grace, for documentation supporting the Historic Place Petition, leads her to discover the full truth of her own past. It is only by devoting herself to the community that Codi finds herself, in the community. Codi's discovery of her double Gracela heritage does not however immediately lead her to a sense of belonging. First, she must address her father's problems. Armed with her newfound information, Codi must convince her father of the very same thing she needs to realize: that he has always been a part of the community and that despite his perception of himself as an outsider, he is deeply loved by all of those around him. Codi is able to see the truth of her father's situation but cannot yet apply it to herself. Most directly, Codi's sense of not belonging came from her father, both through the misinformation he fed her about her heritage and through the attitude of separation that he instilled in her. The only way to change the present and the future in Animal Dreams, is to reach back to the past; Codi must first convince her father of belonging to Grace, before she can herself be convinced. Loyd repeats almost the same arguments to Codi that she has presented to her father. He is bolstered by the letter from the school demonstrating their desire for Codi to remain a part of the community's future as well as of its past and present. Faced with this information, Codi is forced to realize that the only thing keeping her outside of the community is herself and her own maintenance of secrets. Of all that was kept hidden at the beginning of the novel, the only secret yet to be divulged is Loyd's role in her pregnancy. Codi, however, is not yet ready to allow herself to become a full member of Grace's community.

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