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Cass's Identity and Environment in "All Over Creation"

ai97's picture

Environment and Identity in “All Over Creation”


All Over Creation by Ruth Orzeki chronicles the interactions and chain of events surrounding Japanese-American Yumi Fuller when she returns to her hometown Liberty Falls, Idaho to take care of her sick parents Lloyd and Momoko after running away when she was 14. She finds herself in multiple, simultaneous conflicts involving her best friend Cassie Fuller, her former teacher and rapist Elliot Rhodes, and a group of young activists called the Seeds of Resistance who fight against the production of genetically modified organisms in food. Yumi’s best friend Cassie Fuller is heavily influenced by the natural and social environments around her. From her hometown Liberty Falls, Idaho to the spontaneity of Yumi and her family’s presence, Cass is continuously shaped and molded by her environment.

Liberty Falls, Idaho is portrayed as a small, conservative town right at the heart of America’s potato-cultivating industry. Cassie and Yumi grew up as neighbors and close friends in Liberty Falls until Yumi ran away at 14. Although we aren’t given clear, exact images of Yumi’s various whereabouts after leaving, we know she finally settled down in Hawaii. In sharp contrast, we are well aware that Cass remained at Liberty Falls and continues to live there presently. Perhaps the environment of Liberty Falls shaped Cassie’s adult demeanor -- she is a responsible, simple, largely obedient, small-town woman. Just as Liberty Falls may fall under the shadows of neighboring cities and exciting regions, Cass is often overshadowed by the overwhelming presence and light-like quality Yumi carries. At the same time, Cass had been close friends with Yumi, the “different” one, since childhood. She ultimately grows close to the Seeds of Resistance and welcomes their company. With regards to the lawsuit, Cass also differs from her husband, Will, and wants him to drop the case in order to free the Seeds. By the end of the novel, Cass even takes in Charmey and Frank’s newborn baby as her own after Charmey dies and Frank gives the baby to her. As the book progresses and Yumi re-enters Liberty Falls, Cass doesn’t seem so simple anymore.

The arrival of Yumi and her children play a major role in Cassie’s changing environment. Early in the novel, we discover that Cass had breast cancer and learned she would never conceive children. This was devastating for both her and Will. But although this was excruciatingly painful, both Cass and Will became used to the sullen fact. They grew to accept this, occasionally having sex now and then to “try again.” Yet with the arrival of Yumi and her children, Cassie’s social environment is altered and she is reminded how agonizing it is to not have children. The environment Yumi’s children creates resurface and push her desires for wanting a child. There is a greater pressure and tension brought by the close proximity of Yumi’s children. Yumi’s baby, Poo, especially plays on Cassie’s heartstrings. She slowly tries to spend increasingly more time with him. She offers to take Poo out for a few hours, suggesting it casually, “like it didn't matter to her one way or the other. And it didn't matter. Not at first” (Page 128). But having Poo with her allowed Cass to momentarily escape her infertility, and exist in an almost dream-like state for those few hours every week. “"When she had him along, the world looked different, and she liked the way she saw things she'd never noticed before...But she noticed other things, too -- the way she herself felt acutely visible with the baby in her arms, and the way some people's faces lit up when they saw a child. His warm weight was like living ballast, thrumming with energy, giving her substance. Folks were drawn to that” (Page 130). Poo allows Cass to feel like the mother she could have been. The sudden insertion of these children into Cassie’s environment -- Poo, Ocean, and Phoenix -- make Cass feel a heightened spitefulness towards Yumi. She often thinks to herself and even once says to Yumi that Yumi does not deserve her three beautiful children. The changing social environment brought by Poo, Ocean, and Phoenix make Cass -- perhaps rightfully -- jealous, but also provide her a new hope that grew dormant over time.

Cass is altered by her surrounding natural and social environments. The long, consecutive years she spent in Liberty Falls and the effect of her relationship with Yumi played a role in the woman she became, and the arrival of Yumi’s children in her life heightened her fervent desire to have children again. Cass, like many other characters in the novel, demonstrate the inseparable, entwined nature of identity and environment.


ai97's picture

Forgot to include last week's draft URL in the post, but here it is now!