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Animal Dreams

Barbara Kingsolver

Chapters 13–14

Chapters 10–12

Chapters 15–16

Summary

Chapter 13: Crybabies

In his darkroom, Doc Homer thinks back to twenty years earlier when he changed his last name and his realization that Codi was no longer pregnant. Although he thinks explicitly about memory and tries to keep his straight, Doc wanders back and forth between past and present. He remembers as if it just happened the night of Codi's miscarriage.

Codi is about six months pregnant. She locks herself in the bathroom. Doc Homer asks her if she needs help but does not confront her. She asks for Hallie, whom she convinces to go find a particular black sweater that belonged to their mother. Hallie gives it to her, not realizing what is going on. Doc Homer listens as Codi cleans the bathroom, then waits in the dark and watches her sneak out of the house carrying a bundle wrapped up in the black sweater. He follows her out of the house and down to the arroyo, where he watches her bury the baby. Back in the house together, he wants desperately to tell her that he knows what has happened, but he can't figure out how. When she asks for aspirin, he instead gives her medication that will be better for her situation. She takes it without comment.

Chapter 14: Day of the Dead

On the last Monday of October, one of Codi's students, Rita Cardenal, announces that she is quitting school. Rita is pregnant with twins and says that she is too tired to do her homework. The next day, Codi decides to add an unscheduled section on birth control for her class. When some of the students snicker and suggest that the school board might not approve, Codi replies that she doesn't much care what the school board thinks because she doesn't plan on teaching there for more than a year. Codi includes the unit that day in all of her classes, realizing that as much as it is intended to instruct the students, it is also intended to insure that she will not be asked to teach there again. At the end of the day, she thinks about how she does not like to ever become rooted in any one place and also about Hallie's letters, which encouraged her not to give up the fight against Black Mountain just because of the news about the dam.

Rita Cardenal calls Codi to tell her about her last visit to Doc Homer's. While performing her checkup, Doc Homer apparently had a memory lapse and began talking to her as if she were his own daughter. When Codi explains that Doc Homer is losing his mind, Rita says she knows and that rumor has it that Codi has come to take his place as the town doctor. Vehemently denying any such thing, Codi talks to Rita about the difficulties of living in such a small town, where everyone knows each other's business.

Codi goes straight to the hospital to find Doc Homer. His assistant, Mrs. Quintana, says he just left to run a few errands, so Codi tries to follow him on his mixed-up path of forgetting and remembering where he was headed. She catches up with him back at his house at suppertime. They finally talk about Doc Homer's illness, disagreeing about how capable he still is to perform his duties and finally coming around to the fact that Codi never actually became a doctor. Doc Homer asks her point blank what happened. When she faced an incredibly difficult and potentially fatal delivery, Codi explains, she freaked out, blanked out, and left in the middle of the procedure. To her surprise, Doc Homer's only reaction is to tell her she need not ever practice obstetrics and to reassure her that losing one's nerve is a common occurrence, even for doctors. The deep understanding of Doc Homer's reaction allows Codi to cry and then tell him that she never wanted to be a doctor.

A letter from Hallie informs Codi that there has been some Contra activity in her area but that she is fine and very happy.

On Halloween, Codi takes Emelina's children trick-or-treating while Emelina stays home to hand out candy with the baby. For the Day of the Dead, Codi joins Emelina's family and the rest of the town, at the cemetery, cleaning and planting new flowers, just as she did when she was younger. From the graveyard, they can see the beginnings of the dam. Viola tells Codi that the men on the council have decided to file a lawsuit, which could last about ten years. When Codi asks if anyone has publicized the problem, Viola reminds her that no one cares much about a small town like Grace. Wandering around the cemetery trying to gather up Emelina's sons, Codi finds the Nolina plot, including a grave with the name Homero Nolina, almost the same as her father. Viola tells her that, contrary to coming from Illinois as Codi believed, the Nolinas came from Tortoise River, further up the canyon. One of the Nolinas had married one of the five famous Gracela sisters but that they had never fit in well. Before they leave, Codi puts a marigold on Homero Nolina's grave.

Analysis

Although he was never direct, Doc Homer carefully followed every detail of Codi's pregnancy. His inability to talk with her even as he listened to her having a miscarriage shows the extreme difficulty of father-daughter communications. Codi's continuous sense of the absence of a mother figure in her life suggests that the problem is not simply one of parents and children, but particularly one of fathers and daughters. Although Doc Homer knows everything about the medical processes of pregnancy and childbirth, he knows nothing of how to talk with his own daughter about her pregnancy, even about the medical aspects of it. If he had been able to talk to her about it, Doc Homer might have been able to prevent the miscarriage, which was probably due to Codi's severe malnourishment during the pregnancy. Codi connects the loss of her child to the loss of her mother by wrapping the baby's body in her mother's sweater. By burying the body by the riverbed, she also connects the death of the baby to the death of the coyote pups that she and Hallie had been unable to prevent years before on the night of the rainstorm. Although he is unable to help Codi directly, he does follow her at a distance, making sure that she is safe and also preserving for memory the location of the child's burial. Ironically, by the time he tells Codi that he knew about her pregnancy, he will no longer have enough of his mind intact to tell her where that location is. In addition, when Codi returns home and asks him for aspirin, Doc Homer instead gives her pills that will ease the pain without causing more bleeding. Years later, Codi remembers this detail and realizes that it was part of his attempt to communicate with her.

Rita Cardenal's pregnancy serves as a device to uncover both Doc Homer's and Codi's secrets. When he examines Rita, Doc Homer gives her all of the information about nutrition that he wished he had given to Codi. And when Codi hears that Rita will have to drop out of school because of the pregnancy, Codi gives all of her classes the lesson in birth control that she would have needed to hear in order to prevent her own pregnancy. Each step that Codi makes to address the problems and secrets of her past brings her greater success in the present. She conducts the classes on birth control thinking that the school board will not approve, but this is inconsequential to her because she does not want to teach again the following year. These very same classes as well as her attitude of not caring what the school board thinks seal her popularity among the students and contribute to her actually receiving an offer to stay on at the school.

On the Day of the Dead, Codi uncovers the secret that Doc Homer had hoped to hide from her by keeping her away form that celebration during her childhood: the Nolina graves. Codi realizes that her father's contention that his last name was Nolina and that his family was from Illinois may not be true. Viola confirms that Doc Homer's family is in fact from that area and that he himself is a descendant of the Gracela sisters, but she refuses to go into any more detail. Codi realizes that she is not as much of an outsider to Grace as she has always believed and begins to search further for her family's past.

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