Study Guide

Animal Dreams Chapter 4

By Barbara Kingsolver

Chapter 4

Cosima: Killing Chickens

  • We're back with Codi, who's arrived at Emelina's house in the plum orchards. She's a day early, which is a little awkward, but it's cool.
  • In fact, Codi's just in time for the chicken-killing festivities, and the whole Domingos clan is getting down to some bird murder—real birds, this time.
  • Emelina is adorable. She has five sons and a colorful house and garden. She's also a stone cold chicken killer, and she calls her son John Tucker's favorite channel "the MTV."
  • Codi explores her new place, the guesthouse in Emelina's backyard. She thinks about all the millions of times she's moved during her travels around the world with Carlo of the Magnificent Eyebrows.
  • The new house is pretty awesome. It has peacock feathers in a vase—the sort of dangerous stuff Doc used to try and keep his daughters away from, and also a goat wandering around in the courtyard.
  • We learn a little more about why Codi never made it through her MD. Turns out she did well in medical school but "had a crisis while trying to deliver a baby" (4.22) and quit.
  • Hmm, interesting.
  • Now back to the chicken killing. Codi thinks Emelina's butchery skills are pretty awesome, and Emelina thinks it's crazy that Codi can even watch this stuff, considering how she used to cry whenever they had to kill chickens as kids. Codi's all like, No way, that was Hallie. I know, because I have never had a conscience ever. And Emelina's like, Whatever you say, dude.
  • Emelina really likes Codi's hair, which makes Codi sad, because it's just another sign that she doesn't belong. She says, "I'd sell my soul...to belong someplace" (4.33), and you can tell from the italics that this is the central conflict of the book.
  • Codi is close to the family, even though she's been gone for a while. She kept pictures of Emelina's kids around, and people always thought they were hers. That's weird, since she's totally unrelated to anyone in Grace.
  • Emelina is sure that Codi is the one who used to cry about the chickens, and then Hallie would just copy her. Codi even organized a boycott of chicken and rice. So, once again, it turns out that Codi can't remember her own childhood, and even though there are no italics this time, this is also a central conflict of the book.
  • After the killing's done, Codi remembers her last goodbye with Hallie, back in the parking lot of the 7-Eleven. Codi says that Hallie was so excited about leaving that she looked like a wild animal.
  • We learn a bunch of stuff about Hallie, like the fact that she worked for a "Garden Hotline" where people would call and ask questions about garden pests because that's what people did before they had the internet. We also learn that Hallie liked to say she was the "luckiest person alive" (4.70) because a chunk of a building once landed right where she'd been standing a second before.
  • Hallie is a hero: she's been looking all her life for a cause worth risking everything for, and though Codi admires it, she's motivated not by charity but by the need to "win love, and to prove myself capable" (4.75).
  • Basically, Hallie is a way better person than Codi.

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