Study Guide

Animal Dreams Vocation

By Barbara Kingsolver

Vocation

Ah, the age old question: what will I be when I grow up? For Loyd Peregrina, learning to be something, even if it's just a dude who sorts pecans, is the essential ingredient that turns him from a boy into a man. At thirty-something, Codi Noline still hasn't found that magic job. She's been everything from a gas station attendant to a medical researcher, and she's still not quite grown up. Figuring out what she wants to do for a living, as it turns out, is going to be a pretty essential part of Codi's journey in Animal Dreams. As she learns, you've got to figure out what you want to do every day if you want to figure out who you are.

Questions About Vocation

  1. If you're supposed to do what you're good at, as Hallie says, than why isn't Loyd a cockfighter and Codi a doctor?
  2. If the best you can hope for is doing what you're good at day to day, is Doc a successful example of a person who had led a good life?
  3. What if Codi really turned out to have found her calling selling frozen lobsters at a supermarket? Is there room in Animal Dreams for "what you do all day" to be something less prestigious than driving trains or teaching kids?

Chew on This

Writing from Mexico, Hallie describes a guy with a bucket of shrimp to sell who keeps his load balanced by drinking a kilo of water every time he sells a kilo of shrimp. Throughout the rest of the novel, however, balance and efficiency aren't so much the goal of work as a kind of organic connection to your labor. Although Animal Dreams seems to say that it doesn't matter what you do as long as you do it well, in the end it's also essential that what you do reflects who you are.

Animal Dreams ends up envisioning life as well lived as long as you are able to do work you believe in, day by day. With this rubric, Hallie has lived a good life, and the novel ultimately concludes that her death, while sad for Codi, isn't a tragedy.

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