Table of contents
Main thesis: Death determines the life of
Cosima Noline and finally changes it
(a) The life of Cosima Noline
(b) The relationship to Cosima´s hometown Grace
(c) Religious leitmotifs that determine her past and Future life
(d) The change in her life- from the old Codi to a new Codi
III. Concluding remark
Death as a companion of Cosima Noline
The main thesis: Death determines the life of Cosima Noline and finally changes it
The main character in the novel “Animal Dreams” by Barbara Kingsolver, Codi Noline, is a person who has always denied the possibility and importance of change in peoples lives. Her sister Hallie has a positive attitude towards the way of the world and thinks “nothing stays with you all your life” [p. 31], which means everything can be changed to turn out well. In Codi´s opinion there is nothing she can ever steer in the world not even in her own microcosm and although the name Cosima means “order in the cosmos” [p. 13], she feels that she “must have sensed the lack of cosmic order in (her) future” [p. 13]. When she grew up in Grace, Codi felt “unfit to live” [p. 184], also in present she has “no more mission in life than I´d been born with [p. 28].
She believes she is born as the bad part of the two sisters. The one who goes hand in hand with death. When Codi once looks at the plants before her front step, she thinks they are “right down to death´s door, but water always brought them back” [p. 89], whereas she “could only wish for such resilience” [p. 89] to escape death. In opposition to her fate as being the death angel, her sister Hallie has got the gift to protect life because she knows how to grow plants and how to help people in emergencies.
The roles cannot be changed. Codi is surrounded by death. Her mother died when she was a child and at the age of sixteen Codi had a miscarriage. She is the first person who explores the poison which is killing Grace from underneath. For her it seems to be just another bad omen of her failed life.
She does not recognize the positive images around her, for example the strong relationship with her sister Hallie, not also that she is the savior of Grace, because she has enabled the people of Grace to take the last chance and save their hometown.
In the end of the novel, the life of Codi Noline turns upside down and this dramatic change is on one hand the result of Hallie´s death in Nicaragua. The closest person in her lifetime, whom Codi always believed was the better part of herself has now gone forever. On the other hand that she survived the airplane flight accidentally is the second occurrence on her way towards a new life. Suddenly she recognizes that “so much of life is animal instinct” [p. 319]. It is a new aspect on her life, that she as a human being also inherited “fear and the will to live” [p. 319]. However, these are the traumatic incidents she always seemed to need. It does not make her life seemingly unbearable but turns her despair around. Halimeda, which means “thinking of the sea” [p. 13], nevermore the center of Codi´s life, is dead. But the sea is the origin of all life on earth and becomes the bearer of Codi Noline´s “new life”. The discontent that has chased her since she was born is now unraveled.
(a) The life of Cosima Noline
To prove that Barbara Kingsolver´s main character Codi Noline has put up with her fate of leading a life determined by unconsciousness and death, she lets Codi live through five major phases. I think looking back at her childhood and her miscarriage- on the other hand saving Emelina´s baby- and in the present the discovery of the dead river, Hallie´s death and the reflection of her lovers, leads the reader to this conclusion. She is a woman “untouched by grace” [p. 115], who needs life and love to be “rescue(d) from the cold” [p. 117]. These five phases need to be reflected, to wrap up the conclusion that death is a companion of Codi Noline and finally changes her life.
Codi always felt that she and Hallie are “children robbed of love” [p. 50]. After Hallie was a newborn, their mother died when Codi was not quite three years old. For Codi it was the first traumatic incident in her childhood and she never got over it, in opposition to her sister, who never felt like a “motherless girl” [p. 52]. Codi always repeats that she can remember the helicopter landing in the alfalfa field behind the hospital, with the body of Alice Noline as a fragile, important package. Her father ever declared this as the unlimited dreams or fantasies of a child. At the end of the novel it turns out that she was not dreaming. Viola Domingos who looked after Codi and Hallie when her mother was brought to the hospital, took Codi to the place the helicopter landed with her dead mother, because she thought Codi “had a right” [p. 312].
Alice Noline did not die, as Codi always wanted to believe, of the fear of flying but of childbirth after Hallie was born and this is a natural event. Even if it makes her death not less painful, Codi accepts this. Her mothers death and the, from her past point of view, misplaced childhood is a part of her life, which she cannot runaway from.
The miscarriage and saving a babies life
The second occurrence and reason why Codi declares her years in Grace “were bracketed by death” [p. 50], was the pregnancy at the age of fifteen and the miscarriage after several months. It seems Codi got pregnant of the devil himself, because in chapter six she thinks about the father´s “misspelled name and devil eyes” [p. 52]. She never talked about her pregnancy, just buried the baby in the riverbed at the Canyon river. Even if Codi bravely says that “a miscarriage is a natural and common event” [p. 52], it changed her life forever.
In contrast to that, Codi saves the life of Emelina´s baby after she returned to Grace. It swallowed a big piece of food and could not breathe. Codi is the only one who notices it and reacts as quickly as a medical doctor. Everyone is impressed and thankful, but Codi just takes it for granted and derives no positive energy for her own life out of it.