Weaving the Threads of Memory in Animal Dreams

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Gene Thompson
American Novel
07.21.2011

Weaving the threads of Memory in Animal Dreams

When we are lost, memory swoops down from the heavens and saves the day. Memory is what connects us to the world. We use memory to synthesize with our thoughts and life experiences so that we can make sense of our surroundings and ourselves. Our interactions with the physical world—our sensory experiences, our perceptions, our actions—change us continuously and determine what we are later able to perceive, remember, understand and become (Thompson 1). These factors shape our identity. Without memory, one can lack the foundation needed to sustain a sense of self. Within Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal Dreams,” memory is one of the key thematic elements that drive self-identity and link relationships. Within this text, we will also see how trauma can effect memory thus effecting self. Kingsolver’s “Animal Dreams” engages us with the story of Grace, a forgotten town in Arizona during the 1980s. Within this story, we learn about Cosmina “Codi” Noline, a cerebrally omitted woman who returns to Grace to help her father, Doc Homer, who suffers with Alzheimer’s disease. Codi’s narrative within the story of Grace is problematic. Lee Ann De Reus’s “Exploring the Matrix of Identity in Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams,” describes Codi, “With no sense of purpose in life, she moves from job to job, lover to lover, unable to make commitments: “I tended to drift, like a well-meaning visitor to this planet awaiting instructions.” (Kingsolver 10; ch. 2). And upon arriving in Grace, Codi says that “I was here, after all, with no more mission in life than I’d been born with years ago.” (Kingsolver 28; ch. 4). Because she heavily relies on her sister, Hallie, in order to live, Codi mistakenly associates Hallie’s moving away as the reason her life begins to fail. “Our home fell apart when she left,” Codi says about her relationship with a man named Carlo...
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