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Animal Dreams

Barbara Kingsolver

Chapters 3–4

Chapters 1–2

Chapters 5–7

Summary

Chapter 3: The Flood

Doc Homer relives a memory in a dream. There is a flood. Codi and Hallie are lost. They went out to gather fruit when they knew a storm was coming, while he was in his workroom. Doc Homer simultaneously searches for his lost daughters and remembers that they have already grown up and left home.

Upon waking, Doc Homer ponders the memory that inspired the dream. He found the girls on the far bank of the river, but, since the road was washed out, he had to call a neighbor, Uda Dell, who lived on that side of the river. Her husband rescued the girls, who had gotten stuck because they were trying, unsuccessfully, to save a litter of coyote pups.

Chapter 4: Killing Chickens

Codi arrives at Emelina's just as Emelina and her twin sons are about to kill the roosters for supper. Emelina has five sons, John Tucker, the twins Curty and Glen, Mason, and the six-month-old baby Nicholas. Aside from her father, Emelina is the only person from Grace with whom Codi has stayed in touch. Codi moves in to Emelina's guest house, noticing that it is decorated with the same peacock feathers every family in Grace collects to make real-feather piñatas. Doc Homer didn't let his daughters collect feathers, because he considered them to be dirty. Codi feels especially strange about returning to Grace because she had left to go to college and medical school but never became a doctor. She alludes to a crisis she had during a delivery.

Codi watches the family kill the roosters. She remembers graduating from high school with Emelina and thinks about what has happened to them since: she has traveled a great deal and come home, while Emelina married her high school sweetheart, Juan Teobaldo Domingos, who now works for the railroad. Emelina lives with her husband, her five sons, and her mother-in-law Viola. After the roosters are killed, Codi and Emelina sit down for a beer. They comment on how Hallie wouldn't be able to stand killing roosters or anything else, as she has always been so sensitive to the pain of others. Emelina reminds Codi, however, that when they were children it was Codi who couldn't stand the sight of animals being killed, while Hallie only echoed her sentiments. Codi explains that Hallie has gone to Nicaragua to save the crops. They talk about Doc Homer. Emelina was the one who told Codi when he started losing his way around town.

Codi goes into her house and thinks about Hallie, not wanting to imagine her so far away. Codi fells like a drifter, while she sees her sister as the brave one who holds her together, although she remembers that it wasn't always so. She thinks about when they lived together during college. It was because she liked being with her sister so much that Codi stayed in Tucson for medical school, where she met Carlo. Hallie became involved with Central American Refugees. Hallie and Doc Homer, Codi thinks, devote their lives to causes, while Codi believes that it is not possible to move mountains.

Analysis

Although here it is only a dream, Doc Homer often confuses the past and the present. His slowly advancing Alzheimer's disease makes much of his waking reality function like this dream, where past and present blend together. This particular dream and the accompanying memory also indicate his incapacity to protect or to save his daughters. Despite his desire to maintain himself and his family separate from their community, he must rely on that very community in order to keep his children alive. Doc Homer's neighbors never hesitate to come to his aid; he is much more connected to them than he would like to admit.

Life in Grace is intimately connected with nature. The joys and disasters of the community center around the river, as their livelihood depends on it. As the community doctor, Doc Homer's business does not depend directly on the river. Nonetheless, the river has the power of life and death over his family.

Like Doc Homer, Codi is more connected to her community than she thinks. Emelina Domingos is the symbol and the key to that connection. Despite their different paths in life, Emelina and Codi are dear friends. They share not only childhood memories but also a deep adult friendship. As someone who has known Codi her whole life, Emelina is able to help Codi to recover her own past. Memory in Animal Dreams is best constructed and recorded in a community. Codi sees her sister as the one who cares about the welfare of others. Emelina reminds her that Hallie's sensitivity stemmed from Codi's. As she views her past in the light of new memories given to her by others, Codi also gains a new vision of herself in the present. Past, present and future are intertwined through personal and communal memory.

Although she does not have Alzheimer's disease like her father, Codi's memories are clouded by a series of traumas to which are only alluded. These allusions weave a mystery around Codi that is similar, and connected, to the mystery of her father's past. The mysteries surrounding Codi's past are all linked to childbirth. In chapter 4, the mystery of Codi's failure to become a doctor is raised; it hinges on a problem she had during a delivery she assisted.

Fertility, of people and of the land, is a key theme in Animal Dreams. Emelina's five children establish her as a fertile character. Fertility relates not only to the capacity to bear children, but also to the ability to carry forward a family history. Emelina's household consists of three generations. Codi on the other hand appears to have a great deal of difficulty in connection with past and future generations. Although she comes home to Grace to assist her father, she does not move into his home. In addition to having no children, Codi was unable to assist another woman in delivery.

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