She is dead. She does not appear physically but haunts mentally. She is Codi and Hallie’s mother Alice, the late wife of Homero Noline. Throughout the novel Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver, Alice impacted the characters, action, and theme(s). When Alice passed away she took part of Homer with her. What she left was a misfit of time and circumstance; an emotionally distraught and distant man who attempted to resemble a father but veered more towards the tin man.
Homero existed beyond his wife as only a page out of an instruction manual, the one with the caution statement. Homero’s delicate heart decided that the only way to endure Alice’s death was to flush any remembrance or resemblance of her out of his fortified technical realm which throughout the novel becomes increasingly skewed. Kingsolver pushes home this idea by omitting Alice from any of Homer’s frequent flashbacks which are usually mishaps from the past involving his daughters. These incidents are his only recollection of his daughters’ estranged childhood in which he strained to create slippery and unmothered women. Homer’s fear of becoming attached to anything which reminded him of Alice resulted in an unorthodox childhood for Hallie and Codi. Homero was more of a child mechanic than a father. Retaining only his technical aptitude after Alice died all he could do was provide his kids with orthopedic shoes and the correct medicine.
When not fixing Codi or Hallie’s present or future ailments Homero took photographs of natural objects and slyly transformed them into man- made devices by doing what he seemed to be best at, distorting images. Codi, similar to her father mentally blocked out her past. Her childhood remained within her as only a series of stained and misplaced memories. Codi attempted to follow in her father’s emulsion lined footprints, fixing every one of life’s problems with an internal wrench. By approaching life from behind this falsified image Codi managed to distance herself from everything and everyone who could have hurt her. One aspect of life and time in which Codi was bred to be distanced from is the past. As Codi grew older she began wondering about her family’s past. Homer basically told her they had no past. So with no past and no identity, Codi lived, searching for security and stability through a mother figure. Everywhere Codi went she managed to find a mother figure. Whether it be a man or a woman friend or even Hallie, Codi hid herself in other’s security. This search for stability is catalyzed by the lack of a mother in Codi’s childhood. The lack of maternal instinct in Codi left her with no sense of direction, therefore; she searched aimlessly for years, for herself.
When Codi returns to her childhood home in Grace, Arizona she discovers she does have a past, both in her lifetime and prior to it. Contrary to what Homero told her, her original family was from Grace, her roots were there. The absence of Alice lays down a theme for the novel: you must return to your roots to find your identity. This is feasible because Codi had to come back to her family’s origin and her mother’s resting place to finally find herself. Throughout the novel Animal Dreams there is an invisible presence which affects the characters, action, and theme. The reason why this presence is so dramatic and forceful is the fact that it is a spiritual presence, one which we will never meet.
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