Study Guide

Carlo in Animal Dreams

By Barbara Kingsolver

Carlo

Carlo is one of the first characters we meet in Animal Dreams. He's the guy Codi has been dating for ten years. Codi tells us lots of stories about their relationship—like the time they were both ill in Italy at the same time and he made friends with the landlady at the hotel by speaking Italian with her from the bed.

Carlo's an emergency room surgeon. He sews on people's thumbs and faces, and Codi talks about how she stayed with him so long because she thought that he could give her life direction. Literally. "Carlo had a legendary sense of direction," she says. "The man had a compass in his cerebral cortex" (6.48). She means it figuratively, too, of course. Carlo was supposed to be "the guiding star I needed" (6.55). Basically, Codi thought that Carlo might be a kind of knight in shining armor. Armor made of magnets.

But as it turns out, if Carlo were a knight, he'd be named Sir Carlo of the Bushy Eyebrows. He'd live in a castle decorated by his ex-girlfriend, who left him several months ago, and he's left it totally unaltered since then. He'd abandon his quest right in the middle to go pursue another one somewhere far away, with more ski slopes.

He's not a bad guy, but it turns out that Carlo doesn't really have very much personality of his own. Just as Codi tried to get some direction from him, he tried to get it from her. So when Carlo invites Codi to come back and live with him in Colorado, we know it's a terrible idea. He doesn't really support her in her search for identity; he just helps her move along from place to place. His newest idea is that she should be an art model while he puts broken skiers back together.

That sounds like the worst year ever, so when Codi says yes, it's an indication of just how messed up she is. Or the power of eyebrows—you decide.