Study Guide

Animal Dreams Violence

By Barbara Kingsolver

Violence

Folks, there's a boatload of violence in Animal Dreams—although except for the chicken killing and cockfights in White River, most of it doesn't take place directly on screen. In fact, we think that's basically the point. Violence doesn't often happening right in front of you, where you can intervene directly. A lot of it is hidden, like the way Loyd's father's upbringing made him a lousy father, or the way the mine poisoning the river, or the way Hallie is shot in Nicaragua.

But just because the violence in Animal Dreams doesn't draw attention to itself, as it does in some narratives (we're looking at you, Game of Thrones), that doesn't mean it isn't affecting everything all the time. That might be the point of Codi's problem with cockfighting: violence is everywhere already, so why make more of it?

Questions About Violence

  1. Loads of birds die in Animal Dreams—there are cockfights, chicken slaughters, and even the pretend beating-to-death of a peacock. But at the end, there's a scene in which Nicholas learns to walk while he's watching a hummingbird fly. What's up with that?
  2. The ladies of Stitch and B**** are pretty excited about the idea of dynamiting some Black Mountain bulldozers. It's clear that if they knew how to use the stuff without blowing themselves to smithereens, they'd do it. Is Kingsolver drawing a parallel to the contras here? If so, why compare the nice old ladies of Grace to these people?
  3. Loyd's dad was taken off the reservation as a kid and never learned to be a part of Apache or Pueblo culture. Loyd thinks that's what made him such a terrible father. Is taking a kid away from his culture a form of violence, even if there's not necessarily any physical abuse?
  4. What is this novel's take on why people seem to be able to commit violence and then forget all about it and go on with their lives? Is that something Codi does, too?

Chew on This

Animal Dreams connects the problem of violence to the problem of memory. It's hard to eradicate violence because it's so difficult to remember that we participate in it.

Violence against animals and the earth in Animal Dreams is analogous to violence against other human beings.

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