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Animals Dreams is a novel written by Barbara Kingsolver.

Characters

  • Codi - The protagonist and narrator of the novel. After losing her mother at age three and her unborn child at age fifteen, Codi does not want to love anything for fear of losing it. She blends a fierce independence with a deep desire to find someone who will help give her life meaning. Unsure of her direction in life or of her connection to her past, Codi thinks of herself as an awkward outsider in Grace and wherever she goes. She slowly learns that not only does she have a great deal to offer the community, but also that she is and always has been a beloved member of a large family.
  • Doc Homer - Codi and Hallie's father and the person from whose perspective the secondary third person narrator interjects. Although he serves as the sole doctor for Grace his entire life, Doc Homer, partly of his own volition, always feels like a outsider. Despite his manner and un-communicative style, Doc Homer loves his two daughters . As he loses his to Alzheimer's disease, he also loses many of his inhibitions and is finally able to at least voice his care for and understanding of Codi.
  • Hallie - Codi's younger sister who leaves for Nicaragua at the beginning of the novel. Hallie jokingly calls herself "the luckiest person alive" not only because of her near brush with death, but also because she truly enjoys her life. Even when she faces the horrible destruction of life and land in Nicaragua, she finds enormous happiness in trying to help improve cultivation practices. Contrary to Codi, Hallie feels at home absolutely anywhere.
  • Loyd Peregrina - Codi's love interest. Loyd would die for the land. A native american with mixed Apache, Pueblo and Navajo ancestry, Loyd is deeply connected to his Native American roots. The calm wisdom that accompanies his understanding of the land and its cycles leads him to be a perfect partner for Codi.
  • Emelina Domingos - Codi's childhood friend in whose guesthouse she lives in Grace. Emelina happily mothers her five sons as well as her close friend Codi. She leads a simple life, devoted to her family and to her community without ever losing a strong sense of herself.
  • Viola Domingos - Emelina's mother-in-law. Viola appears to be a typical meddling but sweet grandmother. Her devotion to her family and her community make her to be one of the leaders of the movement that will save Grace. Thanks to her meddling, Viola also proves to be a repository of local and family history.
  • Alice Noline - Codi and Hallie's mother. Called Alice only by Doc Homer, she died shortly after Hallie's birth from complications arising from the pregnancy. Her life was characterized by her extreme stubbornness.
  • Carlo - Codi's lover in Tucson. Like Codi, Carlo does not have a strong sense of connection to any one place in the world. An Emergency Room doctor, his relationships with people are characterized by their transcience. He cares a great deal about Codi but is not in love with her.
  • Dona Althea - The matriarch of her family and of the Stitch and Bitch Club, Dona Althea expresses her strong beliefs in off-color remarks.
  • Juan Teobaldo Domingos - Emelina's husband. J.T. divides his time between working on the railroad, caring for his orchard, and loving his family.
  • Uda Dell - Doc Homer's nearest neighbor. Uda Dell cares for Codi, Hallie, and Doc Homer over the years, and is one of Codi's most important links to her childhood.
  • Jack - Loyd's dog. Jack's extreme devotion to Loyd stems from the way Loyd saved him as a puppy, which demonstrates Loyd's connection with animals.
  • John Tucker - Emelina's oldest son. At the awkward beginning of adolescence, John Tucker is a sweet, quiet young man.
  • The Twins - Emelina's twin boys. Curty and Glen are curious young boys.
  • Mason - Emelina's fourth son. Mason is very quiet.
  • The baby - Emelina's youngest son. Nicholas learns to walk in the middle of the disaster of Hallie's disappearance, symbolizing the continuation of life.
  • Mrs. Quintana - Doc Homer's assistant. Mrs. Quintana cares for Doc Homer over the years.
  • Mr. Rideheart - An art collector from Tucson. Rideheart becomes interested in the peacock piñatas. Mr. Rideheart suggests the solution that will save Grace from destruction.
  • Leander - Loyd's twin brother and best friend. Leander died when he was fifteen. He stands for the destruction that Anglo culture has on Native American communities, as well as for the importance of the bonds between siblings.
  • Inez - Loyd's mother. Inez is a Pueblo Indian who still lives on the reservation. She symbolizes the Native American matrilineal tradition.

Plot

Animal Dreams opens with a brief chapter narrated in the third person, from the point of view of Doc Homer. This establishes a double narrative voice, which switches between dreams and memories of the past and events of the present. Doc Homer remembers his daughters, Codi and Hallie, when they were young. Their mother is dead. In the second chapter, narrated by Codi in first person, the plot line begins. Hallie leaves Tucson, Arizona, where she was living with Codi and Carlo, for Nicaragua. She plans to assist the newly established communist regime with their crop cultivation. Shortly thereafter, Codi also leaves Tucson, returning to her small rural hometown, Grace, to care for her ailing father and to teach high school biology. The return to Grace is fraught with difficulty for Codi, as she has always felt herself an outsider in the town and has never had a very close relationship with her father. Her return home raises the specter of several mysteries surrounding Codi and her family's past: her failure to hold a medical license despite her attendance at medical school, the deaths of her mother and of her child, and the relationship of her family to the rest of the community. In Grace, Codi stays in her friend Emelina Domingos's guest house. As the two women talk, Codi's high school relationship with Loyd Peregrina is revealed. Loyd, a friend of Emelina's husband J.T., still lives and works in town. Re-visiting Grace, Codi is again struck by her feeling of being an outsider. Codi and Hallie's mother died shortly after Hallie's birth. At the age of fifteen, Codi became pregnant with and then miscarried Loyd's child. She never told anyone. Her father, the town doctor, was aware of the situation, but Codi still does not know this. Codi and Loyd meet again and begin a new relationship. Loyd, a Native American who grew up on the nearby Reservation, is ready to establish a serious and committed relationship, but Codi is not ready to imagine herself as staying in one place or loving only one person. Loyd accepts her ambivalence. They continue to see each other, and he teaches her about Native American Cultures. Meanwhile, the town of Grace faces a terrible threat to its very existence. The local Black Mountain Mine has been dumping sulfuric acid and other chemicals into the water supply for years. This water is necessary for the irrigation of the pecan and fruit trees that are integral to the community's survival. While the men of town notified the Environmental Protection Agency of the problem, the only solution the EPA requires, that the river be dammed above the town, is almost worse than the problem. The older women of the town, who meet weekly at the Stitch and Bitch Club, take their own initiative. They make piñatas, decorated with the feathers of local peacocks and accompanied by a note detailing Grace's problem, which they sell in Tucson. Because Emelina's mother-in-law Viola is one of the main organizers of the Stitch and Bitch Club and because Codi's education is of great help to their cause, Codi joins with the women. She involves her classes as well. As she becomes a part of the community effort to save the town, Codi also begins to learn more about her own family's past. It turns out that the story her father had always told her about their family—that they were outsiders in Grace while almost everyone else is related to one another—may not be exactly true. All this time, Codi and Hallie, who have always been extremely close, exchange letters. On Christmas Day, Doc Homer receives a call from Nicaragua informing him that Hallie has been abducted by the US-backed Contras. Codi is thoroughly distraught. She spends the next few months between deep depression and frenzied attempts to find Hallie. During this period, the efforts of the Stitch and Bitch Club gain an enormous amount of publicity, and finally an art dealer arrives in Grace who offers them a solution to their problems. They can apply to have Grace named a Historic Place and gain federal protection for their orchards and their water supply. In helping to document Grace's historic status, Codi learns more about her own family history. It turns out that both her mother and her father are natives of Grace and are related to everyone else in the community. Her father is descended from the black sheep of the founding Gracela sisters, and therefore he tried to change his name to pretend that both he and her mother were outsiders. Although everyone went along with his facade, the whole community is aware of the truth. This discovery combined with her involvement in Grace's present struggles allow Codi to slowly feel that she is less of an outsider, although she still does not plan to stay in Grace beyond the one-year teaching contract. Toward the end of the school year, Hallie's body is found in Nicaragua. The Stitch and Bitch Club file the Historic Place petition and the Black Mountain Mine declares that it will shut down and clean up the river. Codi leaves Grace to rejoin Carlo, not because she loves him but because he is moving on and she still feels a need to do the same. However, the plane she takes to join him has engine trouble and is forced to turn around. When they land safely back in Tucson, Codi immediately gets on a train and returns to Grace. She holds a memorial ceremony for Hallie, which all of Grace attends. As she buries the symbolic bundle in Doc Homer's garden plot, the two of them finally clear up the last of their secrets. Codi also tells Loyd about his child that she lost. In the last chapter, we see that a year later, Doc Homer is dead, and Codi, still teaching at the high school, is again pregnant by Loyd.

Symbolism

Peacocks

The Gracela sisters brought their peacocks with them from Spain when they first came to the valley that was eventually named after them. Like the Gracela sisters, the peacocks thrived in Grace. They stand as the symbolic reminders of the Gracela sisters, the uniqueness of Grace, and the connections between its inhabitants. Thanks to the peacocks, the Stitch and Bitch Club succeeds in publicizing the plight of Grace. The peacocks also symbolize the importance of making use of the past in order to preserve the future.

The Afghan

Codi and Hallie had one favorite afghan that they used to huddle up under together. The blanket stands for their connection. Codi uses it at the memorial ceremony for Hallie to gather the mementos that everyone brings. At that ceremony, Uda Dell reveals that she crocheted the afghan for the girls just after their mother dies, imbuing it with a new symbolism: the caring of the entire community for Codi and her family. Finally, Codi wraps everything in the afghan and heads off to bury it, just as she wrapped her child in her mother's sweater and went off to bury it. The parallel is emphasized by Doc Homer's mistaking of the one bundle for the other. As she plants Hallie's bundle in Doc Homer's garden plot, Codi symbolically perform a public burial of her unborn child as well. Using the afghan, which was her comfort as a young girl, she gives up her position as daughter to accept one as mother.

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