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Animal Dreams

Barbara Kingsolver

Chapters 15–16

Chapters 13–14

Chapters 17–19

Summary

Chapter 15: Mistakes

That night, Codi stops by Doc Homer's to ask him about the grave with his name on it and the possibility of their having any relatives from the area. Confused by his lapse of memory as to who Codi is and what she is asking him, Doc Homer ignores her questions and tells her he is busy.

Chapter 16: Bleeding Hearts

Winter arrives. Codi gives up on her father's family but tries to find out more about her mother. Despite what she had been told as a child, Viola assures Codi that her mother died of complications relating to Hallie's birth. Viola also tells Codi that everyone besides Doc Homer called her mother Althea, but when Codi asks if she is in some way related to Doña Althea, Viola will say no more.

The Stitch and Bitch Club holds a meeting about the river, at which Codi is Viola's guest speaker. Codi explains the chemical aspect of the pollution. To Codi's surprise, the women ask her if there is any way to recover the river water. Codi concedes that if Black Mountain stopped dumping chemicals into the water, it would eventually return to being safe. After Doña Althea translates Codi's speech into Spanish, the women begin to discuss immediate measures. Officially, they plan mass demonstrations to start the next morning and unofficially support vandalism of the mining company's equipment.

Hallie sends another letter telling of the assassination of three of the local teenage girls.

Loyd often spends the night at Codi's; she finds he is a perfect cure for her insomnia. But when she mentions the Lone Ranger and Tonto to him one day, he accuses her of thinking of him like a TV Indian, "dumb but cute." It turns out that he would like to have more than a casual relationship with her. She protests that she's not going to be around for long because she is still searching for a feeling of home and a sense of purpose in life, but he accuses her of thinking he is not good enough for her. Loyd does understand her sense of not belonging, however, and invites her to a cockfight. Codi accompanies Loyd to the next cockfight on the reservation. She is sickened by the sight but appreciates the bond Loyd shares with his birds. On the way back, they talk about how much cockfighting bothers Codi. Loyd says he'll give up cockfighting for her.

Analysis

Alzheimer's disease affects the memory as well the capacity to communicate. In this way, the disease accentuates the particular difficulties that Doc Homer already showed even in perfect health. Ironically, as the disease sets in Codi begins to press Doc Homer to communicate, and he becomes willing to do so but is often prevented by the disease. Similarly, Doc Homer had tried to erase certain elements of his past by changing his name and pretending to forget that his family came from the Gracela valley. Again, just as Codi begins to ask him direct questions about these facts, the Alzheimer's disease affects his memory so that he truly experiences gaps where he once would have to create them. Doc Homer has always simply changed the subject when a subject arose which he did not want to discuss. Now when Codi asks him about his last name, he cannot remember who she is and attempts to keep his hold on reality by talking about the one thing he is able to remember. To Codi, this method of coping with the disease looks exactly like his lifelong method of coping with unwanted questions. She is unable to distinguish either his change in attitude about communicating with her or the signs of his disease.

The several mysteries of the novel are now beginning to unravel. Those pertaining most directly to Codi have been revealed. Codi's failure to complete her medical degree has been explained, as has the loss of her child. She has begun to tackle the mystery of her family, starting with her mother's death and reaching back to the ancestry of both of her parents. What Codi discovers is a series of half-truths her father used to cover up his and her mother's past. These range from the cause of her mother's death (kidney failure, as he had said, but caused by pregnancies during childbirth) to both of their true names. The other members of the community have an ambivalent relationship to helping Codi to discover her family's history. While Viola gives Codi a few clues, she refuses to discuss the subject at great length. This shifts the secret of her family's past from one held simply by her father, to one held by the entire community, paradoxically connecting Codi's past more deeply to the community as it is hidden by the community.

Parallel to, but not in direct causal relationship with, the reintegration of Codi's past with her community, in the present moment Codi becomes increasingly involved with the Stitch and Bitch Club's efforts to save the river. Where the men of the community are content to use officially sanctioned methods of law suits in order to address the problem of the dam, the women refuse to wait the ten years that these avenues will take to pursue. Instead, they take matters into their own hands. Codi is instrumental because of her knowledge about the biology and the chemistry involved in the pollution, and after her speech, the women organize themselves. Their plans do not simply consist of talking or of supporting avenues traditionally expected of women; while officially they organize a demonstration, they discuss at length and unofficially support the violent destruction of mine property.

Whether or not Codi is a descendant of the Gracela sisters, she and Loyd are an interracial couple. As their relationship is a wonderful one, supported by all those who know them, the idea of interracial couples in obviously supported by the novel. First, the interracial nature of their relationship is highlighted through Loyd's explanations of Native American culture. These explanations show that Codi is an outsider to Loyd's culture, but also show both of them as eager to help her to develop an understanding of that culture. Loyd's accusation that Codi sees him as a TV Indian also makes explicitly some of the difficulties of interracial relationships. Both people have to confront the stereotypes they may have, or may fear that the other has. As Loyd voices those problems, he and Codi are able to overcome them: it turns out that while Codi knows the stereotype, she is hesitant to commit to an emotional relationship with him for other reasons.

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