Study Guide

Animal Dreams Writing Style

By Barbara Kingsolver

Writing Style

Deadpan

"I am the sister who didn't go to war," saysCodi in her opening line—but it's almost the last time in the novel she uses language so formal. More often, the novel is like a long conversation with a good friend who's maybe a little detail obsessed and judgmental.

Codi tells her own story (mostly) in Animal Dreams, and she tells it with a seriousness that would be pretty darn infuriating if it weren't so funny so often. Take this scene from the city pilgrimage of the Stitch and B**** club, for example, when fifty older women from the small town of Grace descend on the streets of Tucson with their arms full of peacock piñatas:

Norma Galvez, in the meantime, lost her partner and had to be escorted back to the big green naked lady by a bicycle policeman named Officer Metz. In a conversation that lasted only about five blocks she'd acquired an amazing number of facts about the man: for example, he had twin daughters born on Christmas Day, and wore a hernia belt. She told Emelina and me these things when she introduced him. (17.28)

Codi tells us about Officer Metz's hernia belt with about the same tone that she uses when describing the hot springs in the Jemez Mountains or the flowers in Emelina's garden. Maybe it's a throwback to Codi's med school days, when she had to describe surgeries and wounds with deadpan detail.

In any case, this style can be funny, as in the quote above, or heartbreaking, as when Codi describes the contents of Doc's attic archive, but Codi never tells us how to feel. She does play coy occasionally with language, especially when it comes to sex, but she's pretty straightforward even about that. She comes right out and tells Loyd, for example, that she just wants to shut up and go to bed with him.

Still, even though desire, sex, and love are a big part of Animal Dreams, it's not a romance novel, and Codi's no fluttering heroine. With her deadpan description of events and scenes around her, Codi has to the draw the line somewhere. Usually it's at the bedroom door.

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