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Animal Dreams

Barbara Kingsolver

Chapters 20–21

Chapters 17–19

Chapters 22–24

Summary

Chapter 20: The Scream

On Christmas night, Doc Homer gets a phone call form Nicaragua, informing him that Hallie has been kidnapped. Doc Homer confuses the information with memories of calls from the school when his daughters were in trouble, not even sure which daughter got in what kind of trouble. As the woman from Nicaragua explains in more detail what has happened to Hallie and what is being done to try to find her, Doc Homer takes in Hallie's real and present abduction.

Chapter 21: The Tissue of Hearts

In her distress over Hallie's disappearance, Codi berates her students, trying to make them understand their relationship with the destructive forces of American industry. After class, just as she fears she may have gone too far in trying to explain chlorofluorocarbons and rainforest destruction all in one day, one of the students tells Codi that it is cool that she shows them how passionate she is about these issues.

On her return from Santa Rosalia de Pueblo, Codi begins to have dinner with Doc Homer every night. Doc Homer is so upset by Hallie's disappearance that the little grip he still had on reality slips further away. He can still perform his routine functions, but he becomes ever more lost in his memories. In his confusion, he begins to talk to Codi about Loyd but refers to their relationship of twenty years earlier. Frustrated, Codi confronts her father with his lack of attention to her real life and also with all of her disappointment in herself. In the argument, Codi tells him about her pregnancy, and Doc Homer responds that he knew. Then Codi confronts him about their family origins. He admits that his family is from Grace. He went to medical school in Illinois and married Alice. But Alice's family despised Doc Homer, so they moved back to Grace. When Codi asks why they came back to Grace of all places, Doc Homer changes the subject.

In school the next day, Codi apologizes to her class and tells them about Hallie. They have a much more calm discussion about the same topics. Friday, Codi stays home from school and tries to find out what has happened to Hallie. She is finally able to talk with the Nicaraguan Minister of Agriculture, but even he is only able to tell her that she is probably in a prison camp in Honduras. He tells her the person who could help her is the President of the United States. Letters from Hallie, that she posted weeks earlier, continue to arrive in the mail, but Codi doesn't open them.

By the middle of January, the peacock piñatas, and Grace, become famous. Newspapers and magazines all over the Southwest print articles about them, and CBS News comes to Grace to cover the story. They interview Doña Althea. Her colorful responses to the questions about the mine show that while she may not know how to utilize the official government resources, she and the other women are dedicating themselves in the only way they know to a cause they realize may be futile. In response to a question about the peacocks, Doña Althea tells the story of the five Gracela sisters as if it were the story of Genesis. For Codi, listening to the interview, the story resonates with what she always wished to have heard from her mother as a child.

Analysis

The war in Nicaragua serves as a global backdrop to the local story of Grace. Hallie's involvement with farming techniques there mirrors the struggle of the people of Grace with the water supply for their trees. In both cases, the United States government is involved to a certain degree in the destruction of life and land. In the case of Grace, the involvement is more tacit. The Environmental Protection Agency's policy, which attempts to direct water pollution, does not account for the necessity of clean water in its response to the effects of polluted water. In the case of Nicaragua, however, the involvement of the United States is much more direct. The woman who calls to tell Doc Homer of Hallie's abduction lists three people he could possibly call for help: The Nicaraguan Minister of Agriculture, the United States Minister of Agriculture, and the President of the United States. Here not only a general agency but a specific person is named as responsible. The particular role and relevance of the President, who at the time was Ronald Reagan although he is never named in the novel, is reiterated by the repetition of the suggestion to call him given by the Nicaraguan Minister of Agriculture to Codi. The problem this time is not simply a misdirected policy, but the active support of a particular campaign intended to kill. Hallie's letters as well as her abduction serve as a clear and strong condemnation of US policy in Nicaragua in the 1980s. The reactions to Codi's various inquiries also point figures at the US government. While she calls everyone she can think of, the only person to whom she speaks at length and more than once—and the only person who eventually provides material help in finding out what happened to Hallie—is the Nicaraguan Minister of Agriculture. In this way the US government is shown not only to have criminal policies, but also to refuse to acknowledge its accountability for its policies, even when the affect US citizens.

In the midst of all of her pain at Hallie's disappearance, Codi is still able to notice the success of the Stitch and Bitch Club. Where government channels failed, media attention seems to have some effect in at least raising awareness of their situation, if not in bringing about change. The success of the women in attracting media attention is contrasted with the failure of the mayor's earlier calls to local press. Both as a man and as a representative of the government, the mayor is set as, at best, ineffective.

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