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Seeds in All Over Creation

haabibi's picture

The description and word play of Ruth Ozeki made the book even livelier. Through his words, I could feel the vibes of not only new life, agriculture, healthy protest, love and care, but also death, betrayal, discrimination. He playfully uses the theme of “seed” using the word metaphorically throughout the novel. So I want to know how “seed” has been presented throughout the book, and what qualities does “seed” have that led me to feel all the different ambiences that it has effused. The image of seed germination gave me an impression of the struggle that Yumi and The Seeds of Resistance were going through against those who hold power. “Only some of the seeds would overwinter, to germinate in the spring.” (372)

In the case of Yumi, people might see her as an apathetic daughter, unqualified mom or as an impulsive, short-sighted woman craving for cigars, drinks and sex. It is true, but she was just not ready yet to take all the responsibilities as a fully matured woman. I praise her, however, for her braveness and her strong sense of independence, and actually establishing herself well in California by continuing her education and studying what most interested her. Unlike Cass, Yumi directly takes actions and does not conform herself to the environment, in which she feels like she is unwelcomed or makes her feel alienated.

Encountering the Seeds of Resistance, the death of her father, finally ending the relationship with Rhodes, seeing her children grow also contribute Yumi to grow. She says to Cass, “I’ve never been able to make them feel safe. Maybe that’s what happens when you run away from home. You get older, but you never grow up. See? I come back to this house, and it’s like I’m a teenager again.” (240) Before she came back to Idaho, she hesitated and was afraid of meeting her father again, blaming Lloyd for all the consequences. Even she came back and settled down, she says to Cass, “Three wonderful grandchildren ought to more than make up for one lousy abortion, but no… I haven’t forgiven him either. You know what I don’t understand? He never wrote to me. All those years. Not once. You’d think he could have cut me some slack, even if I was a sinner. Wouldn’t you, if you had a daughter?””

So I was wondering wouldn’t this kind of her personality can be analogous to the germination of a seed, in which the seed needs to overcome all the pressures and abnormalities when it starts to sprout? Also this might be a little far-fetched, but hasn’t the author purposely set Cass as infertile, indirectly telling how the energy of resistance and protest would ultimately lead to fertility and the overall healthiness of one’s identity?

I also thought that the protests and the political struggles that The Seeds of Resistance had to go through can also be related to the struggles that seed needs to go through when it starts to sprout. Like the first impression imposed on Yumi, the first impression of a group of hippies does not have much difference. Wild people, not following the norm, and those who live a nomadic life unable to adapt and absolve into society. But after taking a closer look, I was impressed with  their bright spirits, environmental-friendly ideology, and most importantly how they were actually taking grass-root actions to raise people’s awareness and stimulate a change. Their struggles were unexpectedly tough too: constant observation of sheriff, imprisonment and demise of the very beloved one, Charmey. But the more they had trouble sprouting their seeds, the more fertile their seeds became, the more seeds disseminated. For example, they changed Lilith’s pornography website to New Garden of Earthly Delights, a platform where Lloyd’s customers can adopt the Fuller’s seeds. “Basically the site is the computerized seed-library database,” Geek said. “The one we’ve been working on with Momoko and Lloyd. It contains every single variety of Fuller’s Seeds, all arranged by genus and species and cross-referenced with the plant names in both Latin and common English.” (356)

And Lilith disseminates her seed, a thought full of resistance, to Ocean.

“I hate Monopoly,” said Ocean. “Phoenix cheats. He changes the rules.” “That’s what happens in a patriarchy,” Lilith said. “Men make the rules. But I’ll tell you what. We’ll form an anarcho-feminist collective. We’ll organize and overthrow the system.”  (377)

And at the very last page, the slogan on the gas mask- “RESISTANCE IS FERTILE!”(416) of Frank directly tells the readers how fertility is related to resistance and protest.

Even though the seeds of Yumi and the group of hippies were able to sprout after going through constant encounter of struggles, would they be deeply-rooted plants and wait for the fruits to dangle at the end? Will they still go against the norm and continue to struggle? Yumi has been a seed for most of her life, and it has only been recent that her seed began to sprout as she had overcome the fear of her father and Elliot.

“Grown-up plant is seed too. Like those ones.” She pointed to a cluster of tall purple flower balls, perfectly round and globelike on their thick stems. “Those ones are only flowers now, but they gonna be seeds.” She stretched her arms to accommodate the whole garden. “Everyone gonna be seeds.” (332)

Momoko tells Yumi, how grown-up plant is a seed too. But if everyone is going to be a seed forever in one’s life, when would a person possibly be able to make flowers and see a fruit?


Anne Dalke's picture

I've noticed in your earlier papers how you think analogously, haabibi, and I see you pursuing a question here about the possible analogy between the evolution of a human personality (Yumi's) and seed germination. I do think you could play that out...

and/but I also think that there are major differences between the generation of plants and humans, particularly the hybrid quality of the latter (as Yumi herself observes, she doesn't fit in the monoculture that is Idaho potato-farming). It's certainly true that Ozeki uses plant imagery to develop her ideas (and you re-cycle those words here: disseminate, germinate, generate, fertilize...). But how far can you push those analogies? Where do they have limits? (every metaphor has its limits...)

Let's talk in your conference on Wednesday about how to turn all these analogies from description to argumentation...what is the question you are trying to answer? Does it have to do with how human beings shift and change? And is the generation of plants a useful model for our understanding this?