Animal Dreams

Barbara Kingsolver
  • Study Guide

Chapters 3–4

Summary Chapters 3–4

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.