Artboard Created with Sketch. Close Search Dialog
! Error Created with Sketch.

Pigs in Heaven

Barbara Kingsolver
Summary Chapters 16–17
Summary Chapters 16–17

Analysis

The marooned charter boat in the tabloids symbolizes Taylor's present situation. The novel as a whole is partially an escape narrative, with Taylor running from the possibility of losing Turtle's custody. The fact that the men in the boat went without food for many days before they were rescued foreshadows future difficulties for Taylor.

Jax's conversation with Gundi is important in that it communicates Jax's love for Taylor. The reader understands that the sexual encounter between him and Gundi carried no emotional commitment. The metaphor that connects Jax's affair to a robin egg offers an interesting image of the situation. The egg represents the fragility of his relationship with Taylor at this point. Like the egg, the relationship will be hard to preserve, in essence, hard to keep from breaking. The idea that Jax will show Taylor the egg symbolizes Jax's commitment to telling Taylor the truth. By putting the egg in her hands, he at least gives her the option of doing what she chooses with this breakable situation.

The idea that this is a robin's egg makes the metaphor all the richer. A bird's egg not only has the potential to break, but also the potential to be eaten by predators. An egg in a nest is a kind of home. Taylor is thus faced with the decision of protecting the home she has created with Jax or essentially abandoning it to the predators.

If Cash Stillwater and Gabriel represent the tragic result of Native American clash with white culture, then Barbie represents the American dream gone wrong. Barbie is a byproduct of a culture based around material gain, advertising, and greed. She literally turns herself into "Barbie," having changed her name, buying all the wardrobe ensembles, and writing "tm" at the end of her signature. Her total self-centeredness is demonstrated in the way she fusses about sharing beds, and monopolizes the conversation with ridiculous stories about herself. Finally, her thievery symbolizes the darker side of capitalist society: it seems to be a coping strategy for someone whose luck has run out. In fact, Taylor even sympathizes with her actions, saying that the money "belonged to the hard-luck cases of Las Vegas."

These chapters also help develop Alice's character further. First of all, she explicitly tells Taylor that she has left Harland for good. As an older woman who has lived in the same place for many years, she is also leaving a sense of security and familiarity. This action confirms that she is a strong- willed, gutsy character. Her attitude toward Barbie reveals another important characteristic—her soft-hearted nature. Later, when Alice responds sympathetically to the story of Gabriel, she shows this side of herself again.

Alice's presence also develops further the motherhood theme in the novel. Alice empathizes with Taylor because she knows what it feels like to be a mother; she understands that Taylor is willing to sacrifice all sense of security in order to maintain her custody of Turtle. Alice also responds with maternal instincts when she hears about Gabriel, and this response drives her next action of going to the Cherokee Nation.