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Animal Dreams

Barbara Kingsolver

Chapters 7–9

Chapters 5–7

Chapters 10–12

Summary

Chapter 7: Poison Ground

Codi helps Emelina to organize her yearly "little fiesta" for Labor Day weekend. School starts the following Tuesday. Codi remembers how she applied for the job. She didn't think she had a chance because she did not even have a teaching certificate. Codi is nervous about the start of school. Emelina tells Codi that J.T. and Loyd will both be at the fiesta. Codi controls her reaction.

The party reminds Codi of a high school reunion. She talks with Trish García and tries to prove that she has grown up better than the former cheerleader. Loyd comes up to Codi, and they begin talking as if they had seen each other the day before, flirting. Codi overhears the old men talking about the fruit drop that is attacking the trees; the disease is due to the sulfuric acid dumped in the river by the Black Mountain Mine. The Environmental Protection Agency has apparently just intervened, but the men still think all of the trees in the canyon may die.

Chapter 8: Pictures

Codi walks up by the old Black Mountain Mine and the hospital at which her father works. She runs into Uda, an older woman whom she does not recognize, but who clearly remembers her. Uda tells her she looks just like her mother.

Codi remembers back to two years before when Doc Homer told her of his illness. She hadn't seen him in a long time, and they organized a meeting at a scientific conference Codi was attending in Las Cruces. They met for drinks in a cheesy Mexican bar, and Doc Homer told her he had "a terminal disorder of the brain." They immediately fell into the old patterns of their relationship. He asked her to tell no one, not even Hallie, and Codi kept quiet, even though she wanted to protest. As she thinks about her father's illness and the difficulties it will pose to his extreme self-sufficiency, she begins to understand and to forgive him.

Codi finds Doc Homer working in his dark room; photography is his one hobby. Codi wanders around the house, remembering and exploring it. Noticing the collection of the American Journal of Genetics, she considers the article he once published there on inbreeding in Grace and thinks that everyone in the town is related except for her family. Finally, Codi knocks on the darkroom door and is invited in. To her surprise, her father looks exactly the same as always. They have a brief conversation about how everyone in Grace knows exactly what she's up to, while she can't even remember who they are.

Back at Emelina's, on the night before school starts, Codi's insomnia sinks in as she remembers her recurring nightmare of suddenly going blind. Emelina tells Codi that Uda Dell used to take care of her and Hallie when they were little, and that it was Uda's husband Eddie who saved the two girls from the riverbank. Codi does not remember,and is distressed that everyone in town seems to know more about her past than she herself does. After Emelina leaves, Codi writes to Hallie in Managua, telling her about being back in Grace and asking her if she remembers the night on the riverbank.

Chapter 9: The Bones in God's Backyard

Arriving at the high school for the first day of classes, Codi remembers when she was a student there. That night, she and Emelina talk about school and about the events in town. Viola and her friends hold a meeting of the Stitch and Bitch Club in the living room, talking in Spanish about the peacocks and the fruit trees.

When Emelina asks her to look at a lump on Mason's hand, Codi acquiesces but is filled with discomfort at finding herself viewed as a doctor since she does not have her medical license. The two women continue to muse over old high school memories. In the day's mail, a letter arrived for Codi from Hallie, dated a few weeks earlier. In the letter, Hallie tells of her drive through Mexico. Codi considers with what depth of emotion Hallie has always reacted to other peoples' pain.

On Friday night, Loyd shows up at Codi's door. They talk about the railroad and Loyd's dog Jack. Loyd, who is part Apache, tells Codi a little about Native American folklore and about his past. He grew up with his twin brother, who has since died, in Santa Rosalia Pueblo, where his mother still lives. Loyd has to leave because he is on call at the railroad, but he invites her to drive up to Whiteriver with him the following weekend; Codi accepts.

Analysis

The first four chapters established a pattern of switching between narrators at each chapter. The structure of the novel, however, does not continue this evenly. Codi emerges as the primary narrator not only because of her first person voice, but also because of the number of chapters which feature that voice. While Homer's chapters tend to be fairly short, Cosima's vary in length. Also, while Doc Homer lives increasingly in the past, Codi simultaneously reconstructs her past and builds her future.

Doc Homer shows many signs of being completely disconnected from his community. However, he is the town doctor. He is well known to the townspeople, and is surreptitiously cared for by the older women. In addition, his article on its genetics demonstrates a deep interest in the community. Doc Homer's relationship to those around him may take place in the form of doctor-patient relations and scientific research, but the connection is still present nonetheless.

Although Grace looks to Codi exactly as it did when she left it, she overhears the men talking about a significant change. Grace was a mining town for years. It was also set in a fertile valley where families raised pecan and fruit orchards. As the mine lost importance, the men turned to the railway for jobs but also kept up their orchards. Now the orchards are showing signs of destruction from the mine's waste. Industry will become paired with government institutions to demonstrate the devastating effects of inattention to the land. Concern over the fruit tree drop seems to be limited to the men of the town, as they talk amongst themselves. They trust the government institutions, in the form of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to remedy the situation. Although they do not talk about it with the men, it turns out that the women are also concerned about the trees. Their relationship to established patriarchal systems is quite different from the men's. They talk about the trees at their sewing club, showing that their roles as mothers and homemakers is intimately connected to their concern for the welfare of the land.

Since Codi left at the end of high school and lost her child at around that time, those years are her primary point of reference to Grace. Although in many ways she has now come full circle, teaching instead of studying at the high school, her emotions have yet to catch up to the reality of the situation. Loyd's return to her life starts the process of Codi's reintegration into the present of Grace. While with everyone else Codi talks about her past, she and Loyd pick up at the present, even though they share a past connection. Loyd went to high school in Grace, but he is not a member of the community descended from the Gracela sisters. Loyd belongs to a community even more connected to the valley than the Gracela descendants: the native peoples of the area. Native American cosmology offers an understanding of the past and an understanding of the land that serves as the ideal for the integration of humans into habitat and history.

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