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Roles of men and women

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        Roles of Men and Women  

          Like all novels, Barbara Kingsolver’s,Prodigal Summer by can be looked at and interpreted in many different ways. The novel focuses mostly on the female characters, so I could say that it elevates the role of women and degrades the role of men. However, it also focuses on nature, and could be seen as showing that everything that happened is just a part of life and its balance. I will use both Allen modern feminist interpretation and feminist-tribal interpretation to analyze this novel.

            The female characters in this story are all environmentalists. They try to protect and preserve nature, while the men in the stories are selfish and unconcerned with nature. Reading this story through Allen’s modern feminism puts the women of the story as nurturing figures and men as people standing in their way. Deanna, who lives in the mountain, concerns herself with preserving the ecosystem. Lusa, who lives on a farm, tries to change her farming business and figure out alternative ways of farming that will cause the least harm to insects. Nannie Rawley is also an eco-friendly person who refuses to use chemicals in tending her produce. However, in the process of trying to do be eco-friendly, each of these women runs into men who stand in their way.
          In this feminist interpretation, men are portrayed as obstacles to what the women want to accomplish in these stories. In “Moth Love,” Lusa is an entomologist who is in touch with nature until she marries a farmer. Lusa marries a person who stands in the way of all that she believes in. He grows tobacco and he sprays defoliant over the honeysuckle. While Cole is alive, Lusa is helpless. She is no longer the person that she was. She can’t do her part in helping nature. However, when he dies, she becomes more independent. Even though people there thought that she was foolish for not wanting to grow tobacco, she succeeds in farming even without it. She is able to do some of the farming herself, something that she thought she couldn’t do when Cole was alive. Without Cole, Lusa is able to do her part in preserving nature. She doesn’t use chemicals, but seeks alternative ways to help grow her crops with the least harm to nature.  

While Deanna concerned herself with the ecosystem, her lover Eddie wants to kill the Coyote she wants to protect. Eddie does not understand her protecting the coyote. Garnett thinks of Nannie Rawley as his enemy.  He constantly picks fights with her because she refuses to use chemicals.  Garnett is a stubborn man who can’t seems to figure out why Nannie Rawley is behaving that way. This shows that men are hindrances to women. They prevent women from achieving their goals.

The fact women in the stories are all widowed, single, or divorced further suggests the importance of  the men here. The absence of permanent male figure in their lives did not have a negative effect on them. In fact they seem better off that way. Lusa finally became dependent and successful after her husband’s death. After Deanna divorced her husband, Deanna went to the mountain to live a contented life. Nannie Rawley didn’t even want to get married.

Analyzing the book through Allen’s modern feminist interpretation shows that women are caring creatures who think about the bigger picture. They are the one who care for the nature, while men are selfish and only think about themselves.  They are able to live an independent, contented life without men.

However, looked at from the view of Allen’s tribal feminism, the novel takes a different shape. Analyzing this novel through that point of view would suggest [there is no proof: just stories that are revisable on the basis of further data….] that this is not a battle between the sexes. This novel does not identify a protagonist and antagonist. Instead it shows woman “harmonizing spiritual relationships between the people and the rest of the universe” (Allen 239). Through the lens of tribal feminism, these female characters can be understood as tools to show the balance of nature. They serve to show how everything in nature is connected.

            Living in the mountain alone, Deanna has become engrossed in nature. She was perfectly self-sufficient until Eddie came along. The meeting of Deanna and Eddie was sudden and unexpected. They two of them have a physical relationship, which leaves Deanna feeling attached. Deanna would not long for human touch if Eddie had not come along. Eddie has a relationship with Deanna, but eventually leaves her pregnant with his child. His role resembles that of a male moth, which does not have a mouth. Its sole purpose is to live, mate, and die. From Deanna’s point of view, that was Eddie’s role.

            The other men fulfill a similar role. Lusa and Cole are not married long before Cole suddenly dies. He leaves her with farm. Even though he did not leave her with children, she eventually adopted those of his sister. Nannie Rawley was in a relationship with Deanna’s dad, who also died and left her with a daughter. Although it’s tragic that these male characters die, they leave traces of themselves behind. From the tribal-feminist perspective, this process can be seen as a natural one: the sole purpose of any creature is to live and procreate,.

            Using this interpretation, I can also see how the female characters show how humans are connected to the rest of the universe. We are only a part of the big picture. For example, Deanna talks about how the food chain affects nature. Through Deanna we learn how killing the predator can affect the whole ecosystem that relies on its activities. Because she is looking at nature as a whole, Deanna loves species as a whole and not as individuals. In her conversation with Eddie, she says that killing herbivores doesn’t do as much harm as killing the predators. Herbivores procreate faster and they are less likely to get wipe out. However, without predators there will be too many herbivores. Predators are slower at reproducing and are easier to wipe out.

            Garnett also talked about the consequences that followed from the extinction of the American chestnut trees, much like the killing the coyote affected the food chain. The novel shows again and again how our choices and actions affect the environment around us. People thought that the blight was wiping out all the chestnut trees; so they took it into their liberty to chop down all the chestnut trees before it died out. Without knowing what will happen, they thought killing the trees  was better Deanna explains that if they had not chop down all the trees then the American chestnut would still living right now. It’s part of nature that the strongest will survive. Some chestnuts would be immune to the blight and live on. If people did not killed most of the chestnut trees, there would be enough for it to reproduce and reintroduce itself.

            The accounts of the coyotes and chestnuts show that our actions can have a big influence on nature without us even noticing. They show that all actions are connected. Through this tribal-feminist interpretation, we can see that the women in the story help to explain the connection we have with nature and how we can influence the bigger world.

            Looking at this book through Allen’s modern feminist interpretation shows how women are caring creatures who know enough to preserve the earth. The men stand in their way; they are selfish and do not see the whole picture. However, the tribal-feminist point of view suggests that the point of the story is not that women are better than men. It’s about the balance of nature. It shows how the activities of women can reinforce the idea that everything is part of nature and is connected.

Works Cited

            Kingsolver, Barbara. Prodigal Summer. New York: HarperCollins, 2005.

            Paula Gunn Allen. The Sacred Hoop. Portland: Beacon, 1992.