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Appetite of a Woman

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Courtney Jewett



Appetite of a Woman


            In the book, Trickster Makes This World, Lewis Hyde describes a “trickster” as someone who tricks others in order to feed his appetite.  He is usually creative in his approaches towards trickery because his appetite is so strong.  Hyde uses a coyote as a primary metaphor for a trickster, but any animal can possess the qualities.  This becomes clear to me after reading Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver.  Deanna, a woman who lives with little human contact as a forest manager in the mountains, exemplifies a trickster.  Hyde uses only male pronouns when describing a trickster and there is the question of if Deanna, by the very essence of being a woman, is able to encompass what Hyde describes.  One aspect of a trickster is that he is always aimless.  Women can biologically have a purpose because they are the ones who give birth.  However, Deanna challenges Hyde on his use of male pronouns because the essence of her person is that of a trickster.  She may be settled with a child, but she is still aimless.

            Deanna has an intense appetite to escape civilization and be self-sufficient.  She has gained intelligence from years of avoiding other people while living in the mountains.  Instead of surrounding herself with humans, Deanna lives with other species that she prefers.  As Hyde explains, one of the characteristics of a trickster is that he is an imitator of other species because he lacks species knowledge:

Having no way, he is dependent on others whose manner he exploits, but he is not confined to their manner and therefore in another sense he is more independent.  Having no way, he is free of the trap of instinct, both ‘stupider than the animals’ and more versatile than any. (Hyde 45)

Deanna has been without human interaction for so long that she admires and imitates nature.  For example when she frowns it is, “pure concentration, nothing more.  Two years alone had given her a blind person’s indifference to the look on her own face” (Kingsolver 2).  She is careful to hide her tracks because she wants to avoid human interaction.  Sometimes men from her hometown at the base of the mountain come into the forest to shoot animals or search for plants; as Deanna explains, she learns to nicely turn them away:

“I try not to step too hard on their manhood.  You do that, next thing you know they’re back up here with three or four of their buddies, which can get ugly.  But no, they don’t scare me.” (Kingsolver 195)

Yet, in true trickster way, Deanna eventually falls prey to a trap.  Hyde writes in his book that a trickster is “cunning about traps, but not so cunning as to avoid them himself” (Hyde 20).  Deanna is effectively able to turn people away from the mountain, but when one man, Eddie Bondo, comes onto the mountain, she is unable to avoid his trap.   

            Eddie Bondo is a trickster himself.  He is an aimless wanderer all over the country.  He is young, attractive and Deanna is lured by him into a summer filled with not just human interaction, but the most intimate human interaction possible.  Deanna is helpless to her sexual desires:

He breathed on the skin beneath her earlobe and her back arched like a reflex, like a moth drawn helpless to a flame. She had no words, but her body answered his perfectly as he slid himself down and took the nape of her neck in his teeth like a lion on a lioness in heat: a gentle, sure bite, by mutual agreement impossible to escape.  (Kingsolver 97)

Deanna is aware of her physical and mental helplessness, but as a trickster, she is “proficient at hiding [her] tracks” (Hyde 17).  An attempt to push Eddie Bondo away only leads to him coming back.  “She’d done her best to run him off, flying into her rage at him up in the chestnut log, yet he persisted in her territory”  (Kingsolver 168).  She realizes at this point that “physical pleasure was such a convincing illusion, and sex, the ultimate charade of safety” (Kingsolver 168).  Deanna, like a trickster, gets “snared in [her] own devices” (Hyde 19).

Hyde uses the image of a coyote to demonstrate a common trickster.  In Prodigal Summer, Deanna is closely associated with coyotes and even becomes one metaphorically. For example, the opening paragraph of the novel that describes Deanna and a coyote almost identically:

Her body moved with the frankness that comes from solitary habits. But solitude is only a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot; every choice is a world made new for the chosen. All secrets are witnessed.  (Kingsolver 1, 144) 

As the novel opens, Deanna is in the woods, hypothetically alone, avoiding human contact and therefore, world progression.  She is blissfully unaware of the changes in the culture around her.  At one point Deanna tells Eddie Bondo about a bar she went to where little bands played.  She mentions one named The Dixie Chicks, to which Eddie Bondo laughs and says, “Funny you.  You’ve been out of circulation for awhile.  They don’t play at little joints anymore” (Kingsolver 196).

As the novel progresses, Eddie Bondo pulls Deanna closer to human contact and emotion, the very thing she has been trying to get away from.  Eventually he leaves her with the biggest shock of all: she is carrying another life inside of her. Pregnant, she returns to civilization and her town.  She cannot continue to be aimless, as Eddie Bondo is.  In the end of the novel, Deanna settles back home with a purpose and a responsibility in life.  Eddie Bondo is unaware that he impregnated Deanna and leaves forever: free to live without a purpose, place or goal.  While Deanna has the characteristics of a trickster, it is uncertain whether females are able to always be tricksters.

I disagree with Hyde’s assumption that tricksters are always male.  Prodigal Summer focuses on the power of women.  Deanna is able to live her life happily while being independent of a man.  She resembles Lusa, who is able to farm successfully by breeding goats after her husband dies.  These independent woman contrast with Garnett, who is somewhat lost without the “anchor” of one.  I want Hyde to consider the possibility of a female trickster.  The fact that women can get pregnant, while men can impregnate women and run off, does not convince me that females cannot be tricksters.  They are driven by appetite just as much as men are driven by it.

Deanna remains a trickster regardless of her limits of motherhood; her essence will always be rooted in her desire to wander.  The essence of a person is not taken away even if his or her situation is changed.  This is a very philosophical outlook on a person.  One philosopher who entertained the idea about the essence of substances is Aristotle:

The essence of a thing is what the thing is said to be in its own right.  For being you is not the same as being a musician, since you are not a musician in your own right; hence your essence is what you are in your own right. (Aristotle 154) 

Being a mother is not the same as being settled.  Deanna is not a mother in her own right, she is a wanderer.  Deanna will not suddenly love being around people and society just because she is no longer aimlessly wandering.  She will spend ample amounts of time in the mountains, and I can imagine her introducing her child the pleasures of being completely surrounded by nature.  The essence of her trickery is what she is “in her own right,” as Aristotle would say.

Wandering, in fact, is a state of mind, not a geographical location.  One can be perfectly settled, but be open to new expeditions.  One author, Edward Said, argues in The World, the Text and the Critic for “travel as a habit of mind.”  If a person habitually wanders, then he or she is constantly exposed to thinking beyond the boundaries of his or her home.  For example, my grandma wanders more than any other person I know.  She wants to see the world and fortunately she has the money to do so.  At least four times a year she has some new adventure planned for herself.  My grandpa died five years ago, so she usually travels with her children: touring a remote island, going on a safari in Africa, or visiting a famous museum.  She wanders the world because she has the appetite to see it all, be a part of it, and understand it.  Even in her hometown of Palos Verdes, California, she and her dog go on excursions for miles, roaming trails around town.  Of course, she has a home.  She is very settled in her home and loves southern California, but she could never be satisfied with just staying within those walls.  I argue that it is possible to be settled and an aimless wanderer because wandering is a state of mind.  Deanna can be rooted in a home and still find comfort in drifting around.

Despite her pregnancy, I argue that Deanna can still be called a trickster because the essence of her person is the appetite to be independent.  If Hyde purposefully used the male pronoun to only include males in his description of a trickster, then Barbara Kingsolver’s novel asks him to expand his definition.

Works Cited

Aristotle.  Introductory Readings.  Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1996.

Hyde, Lewis.  Trickster Makes This World.  New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1998.

Kingsolver, Barbara.  Prodigal Summer.  New York: Harper-Collins, 2000.

Said, Edward W.  The World, the Text and the Critic.  Cambridge: Harvard University Press,