Study Guide

Crank Animal Imagery (In Particular, Big Cats)

By Ellen Hopkins

Animal Imagery (In Particular, Big Cats)

If you take one thing away from reading Crank, we hope it's that drug addiction is something wild, uncontrolled, and downright dangerous. What else fits these attributes? The animal kingdom, of course, fuzzy bunny rabbits and cuddly puppies and adorable kittens not included. We're talking rabid wildcats and sea creatures whose tentacles spring to life through the perils of substance abuse. Let's take a trip to the zoo of Crank and check out how Ellen Hopkins uses animals to showcase the story's characters and vices.

Lince the Lynx

Your pet cats might be soft and snuggly, but in the wild, cats are big, carnivorous, and tough to outrun. In particular, lynx are known for being skilled, stealthy hunters able to snatch their prey while avoiding human predators. Their eyes and ears, in fact, are so strong that they can spot a mouse 250 feet away. Still, they are an endangered species—they are so dependent on the supply of small animals that if the population of their prey drops, they can quickly die out.

Hold the phone. National Geographic facts are fun and everything, but what's this got to do with Crank? A lot, actually. During the Albuquerque portion of the book, Hopkins frequently uses big cat imagery to both illustrate the dangers of the drug culture Kristina's about to enter and foreshadow the difficulties ahead. Take Lince for example—when Kristina first meets her, she tells us:

I swear I saw her claws spring out. I froze, prey [...] She had claimed her territory. (The Return of Guinevere.3-4)

If that passage alone doesn't convince you that Kristina ain't in Kansas anymore then check out the part where Lince walks in on Kristina and Adam making out at the bowling alley: "Lince pounced through the door, claws extended, golden eyes growing black" (Not Until the Door Opened.2). To put our Fun Animal Facts to use, it's almost like Kristina is that mouse the lynx can spot from long distances. Kristina's on Lince's turf, and she has the predatory instincts to defend her relationship with Adam.

Playing with the Big Cats

Lince isn't the only time wildlife imagery makes an appearance in Kristina's Albuquerque journey, though. The night after she first sees Adam, Kristina has a dream that she's walking through a meadow watching "Wildcats mating, snarls at the joining, satisfied roars signaling completion" (Through the Keyhole.4). Kristina watches with fascination until the female cat looks up and Kristina sees her face on the cat's body. What's up with that?

It's definitely one of the more bizarre images in the book, but Kristina's dream actually provides a glimpse of her future as a drug user. At first, Kristina is an observer of the cats' activities, getting precariously closer to the dangerous animals. Then the perspective shifts, and she finds that she is actually watching herself engaging in the primal behavior. In real life, Kristina may only be watching Adam and Lince play games with each other, but a time will eventually come when she replaces Lince in the fantasy and becomes a predator herself.

The animal imagery isn't exclusively reserved for creatures who hang out on land, though—to explore the symbolic punch of a sea creature, check out the monster's page elsewhere in this section.

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