The natural world is a hot mess in 2021. We can practically hear Earth remembering the last Ice Age fondly, thinking to itself, "Aw, those were the days, weren't they?" Pristine snow, awesome woolly mammoths, those funny little walking apes with their spears … and now the natural world is a gray, desolate landscape with radioactive dust indiscriminately murdering whole species into extinction. Not exactly a Bob Ross picture we're dealing with here, people. The world as humans have always known it may be a distant memory, but that distance means that the novel can explore the complex, often contradictory, relationship between man and nature—one where humanity seems both outside the natural world and also part of it.
Questions About Man and the Natural World
Which character would you say is the most in tune with nature? Why? Then again, maybe you think no character is really down with nature? Why not? Explain how this affects your reading of the novel's presentation of this theme.
Think back on the novel's treatment of the animal trade: the buying, the bartering, the Sidney's price guide checking, and so on. How do you read this business in regards to man and his relationship with the natural world?
Why do you think it's important that all the citizens of Earth gather and live in the once great cities of the world? What does this say about man's relationship with the natural world?
Do you think the spider Isidore found was electric or authentic? Why do you read it this way? Does it matter for the way we read the novel?
Chew on This
Rick found the electric toad in the supposedly human-free wasteland once called Oregon, meaning that the toad must have hopped there from someplace else—meaning that the natural world just might end up repopulated after all.
The radioactive dust degrades humans, such as Isidore, at the same time that it is destroying the natural world. Humanity isn't separate from the natural world; we're a part of it.