An Overview of the Discovery of Life Through Death in the Novel Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver

In Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Animal Dreams, the protagonist, Codi Noline, is unable to become self aware until the death of her sister, Hallie. Throughout the novel Codi’s dependency on her sister the apparent cause. When Hallie ventures to Nicaragua to show the farmers how to replenish the land Codi returns to the small town of Grace, Arizona to aid her ailing father, Doc Homero. Hallie’s departure in combination with Doc Homero’s bout with Alzheimer disease allows Codi an opportunity to confront her past and insecurities.

Because Codi’s insecurities are temporarily subdued by Hallie’s constant presence, Codi is never given an opportunity to examine her feelings of insecurities until Hallie’s departure to Nicaragua and more so with her death.

The emergence of Codi’s insecurities begins with the death of Codi’s mother. This leaves Codi and her sister to be raised by their father, Doc Homero. Doc Homero is distant and aloof towards his daughters.

Doc Homero’s inability to display his emotions define distinct characteristics of Codi’s behavior. Specifically, Codi’s familial needs became centered around Hallie. Codi and Hallie identify themselves as orphans incapable of understanding their father’s coldness. Codi and Hallie become dependent on each other for emotional nourishment. Codi describes her attachment to Hallie as being, “like keenly mismatched Siamese twins conjoined at the back of the mind” (page 8). Hallie becomes Codi’s only definition and source of family. Codi becomes extremely dependent on Hallie in this aspect. This is the beginning of Codi’s development of insecurities. In addition, Doc Homero’s aloofness with the town people develops Codi’s own feelings of inacceptance. To explain, Doc Homero has personal feelings of being an outsider in Grace and he displaces these feelings onto his daughters. This is exemplified in the way Hallie describes Doc Homero’s self-sufficiency, “Being like no one else, being alone, was the central ethic of his life. Mine too, to some extent, not by choice but by default”(p 69). This depicts how he displaced his feelings onto Codi. Consequently, Codi’s own perception of not being accepted by the town people emerges. Furthermore, Codi’s insecurities develop into a strong dependeny on Hallie in different aspects in order to deal with her feelings.

A direct result of Codi’s insecurities is the development of Hallie as a primary source of security from her feelings. She is for Codi a safe haven she can escape to when problems become overwhelming or perplexing. Hallie is defined as stability in this facet. Hallie offers a blanket of protection from Codi’s personal insecurities. Codi’s dependence on Hallie as a haven from her feelings is evident in Codi’s reaction to her old, high school friend, Emelina’s recollection of Codi’s childhood protests of killing chickens, “No, that was Hallie. She the one that had such a soft heart. We’ve always been real different that way” (page 29). Codi’s recollection of Hallie as the one who protested the death of animals when in fact it was Codi shows that Codi has no realization of her own cares and sensitivities because she projects them upon Hallie. Codi’s inability to distinguish her individual feelings from Hallie’s is because she continually projects them onto Hallie so she doesn’t have to deal with them.

Another result of Codi insecurities is her dependency on Hallie for a sense of direction and purpose. Hallie has a knowledge of direction that seems to escape Codi. Hallie knows what she wants to do and what is necessary to attain it. Codi however, drifts through life with no specific purpose. She maintains her existence anywhere that doesn’t require any effort or emotional discomfort to her. Codi interprets Hallie’s move to Nicaragua as an example of Hallie’s keen sense of direction and her own lack of one. Codi doesn’t see any future direction for herself, “I had no mission beyond personal survival; it was nothing like Hallie’s going to Nicaragua” (page 107). Codi’s lack of direction also stems from her dominant feelings of being an outsider. Codi has never felt accepted by any environment and she is constantly amazed by Hallie’s instant ability to become comfortable. For example, she tells these feeling to Hallie in a letter expressing her admiration for Hallie at being able to be compatible with the environment surrounding her “All I want is to be like you, to be brave, towalk into a country of chickens and land mines and call it home, and have it be home” (page 200). However, she doesn’t realize that it isn’t her uneasiness with her environment but with herself that makes it difficult to be comfortable in any environment. Only after Hallie’s death does she come to this revelation. Hallie’s death allows Codi to counter the results that developed from her insecurities.

After Hallie’s death Codi is able to retain Hallie’s message of finding a direction and what purpose that direction should have. Hallie explains to Codi that “the very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.

Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof” (page 299). This message allows Codi to find her direction and live it. She does this by coming to the realization that her lack of direction is from her innate feeling of not being accepted. The main criterion for acceptance in Grace according to Codi, was to have been born with blue eyes. To explain, the legend of the town is that if you were born with blue eyes you were a decendent of the Gracela Sisters, after who the town is named . Codi discovers childhood pictures which show that she was born with b;ie eyes. After discovering that she is part of the town’s blue eyed tradition she feels a symbolic acceptance. She can then further pursue her personal direction by adhering to Hallie’s advice. This direction is realized by the desire to remain in Grace. She stays in Grace to help the Stich and Bitch Club protest against the environmental catastrophe they face. She is also able to accept the responsibility of her own stable career as a biology teacher and raise a family. Hallie’s death enables Codi to capture an awareness of herself with respect to the people around her.

Hallie’s death also allows Codi to expand her concept of family. She is able to feel an emotional attachment to the people of Grace and in particular to her boyfriend, Loyd Peregrina, an Apache who fathered Codi’s miscarriaged baby. Codi began to discover an awareness of relationships and acceptance that made her secure within herself. She is now capable of identifying the immense love around her that includes: Loyd, Emelina, and her family, her students, and her fifty mothers from the Stitch and Bitch Club. Codi realizes the amount of support she has as a result of Hallie’s funeral. All of the people who love Codi are present to share her grief, this enables her to feel an assurance of support. This sentiment is captured in the phrase, “Whenever I thought I might fall or just cease to exist, the pressure of their shoulders held me there” (page 327). Hallie’s death allows Codi to redefine her ideological needs for a family. Codi is then able to settle down and conceive a child with Loyd.

With Hallie as protection from her own personal feelings, Codi never has to examine or analyze them. Codi’s lack of confidence and the prevaling idea that she is an outsider is a personal aspect she never had to encounter. Hallie is a necessary sacrifice in order for Codi to realize her full potential. As long as Hallie is alive she is a safe haven for Codi to escape to when the truth of her personality becomes too apparent. The irony is that Codi thinks Hallie is life but Codi is really unable to live until Hallie dies. After the death of Hallie, Codi is able to see her insecurities and deal with them. She is able to find a direction in her life and she begins to establish a foundation for her future. She is able to secure a family, friends, a career, and an establish place within Grace. Hallie’s death enables Codi to live.

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