Study Guide

Animal Dreams Setting

By Barbara Kingsolver

Setting

Grace, Arizona

Setting is central in Animal Dreams, and it's also pretty centralized. Though Tucson, Nicaragua, and the reservations of the American Southwest all play major roles in the plot, it's Grace, Arizona that's really the star. It's almost a character itself—it definitely has character, and like our main character, Codi Noline, Grace has an unusual relationship to memory and time.

The courthouse in its tiny downtown has "iron rings mortared into the block wall of the courthouse where a person could tie a horse" (2.14). Grace is full of fruit and nut orchards, and these, in turn, are full of peacocks. Actual peacocks—they came from Spain with the rest of the town's founders, and now they just wander around screaming and dropping feathers everywhere and spreading bird mites. It's super majestic.

The town's multicolored houses and buildings are actually cut straight into the mountainside, so they follow its steep uphill climb. Walking in Grace is hardcore cardio, and people's front yards line up with their neighbor's roofs. Beyond the town, there's the desert, where Kingsolver loves to spend long paragraphs describing the different hues of brown, the snow outlining the limbs of cacti, and the way it feels to stand in the prehistoric living room of an ancestral Pueblo cliff dwelling.

Loyd pretty much seduces Codi with his intimate knowledge of the land around them, and Kingsolver's descriptions are rich enough to evoke a realistic picture of the ecosystems in the area. You can check out visuals of the Southwest in our "Best of the Web" section below.

Basically, reading Animal Dreams is like taking a vacation in Arizona—a vacation in which you do some profound emotional work and come out with your daddy issues all tied up. And speaking of complex narratives of memory and emotional pain, that's what setting often does in Animal Dreams:it reflects the progress of Codi's narrative. And as she gets further away from all her painful associations with the past, for example, we stop hearing so much about how hard it is to climb uphill.

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