Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

The Natural and the Personal

AntoniaAC's picture
The world is changing, the environment is dying, and we, humans, are to blame. Maybe those are generalizations of global warming and the human effect but to some extent the contributions of industrialization and overpopulation have efficiently been disastrous to the environment.  In Rudy Ozeki’s fiction novel, All Over Creation, the story of a potato farm is transformed from a personal narrative to a large scale analysis of the ecological trauma that humans are causing. The intersection between natural and personal becomes the focus of the novel as it play with the interconnection between these two sphere through the lens of a contact zone. Yumi and Cass, both women raised on Idaho potato farms are forced to confront their own identities as humans as well as inhabitants of natural world.

The novel takes on multiple dimensions of its characters identities to explain the crucial role the environment play in the lives of the farmers. For Cassie, her life has been from childhood intertwined in non dualistic sentiment of this interplay. As child "when potato prices plummeted. . .[her father]. . . went bankrupt. He was forced to go to work for Lloyd and the following years were bad ones for [her]." (58) Cassie was raised in a farm working community in which her household and well being was dependent on the fruitfulness of the soil. Her father beat her during points of financial insecurity and this domestic violence shaping her growth as a child and the future she would have. When scripted in the school play, “they made [Cassie] a potato. She said really she didn't mind - that's just the kind of girl she was - but inside she minded a lot" (7). The main crop of Idaho is the potato but the paradox is that potato is the least desirable role. The identity of Cassie does not align itself with the dull existence that the environment has given her the , “three thousand acres of… seem downright dull. She sighed. Cass could not imagine paradise." (31) The sentiments of the character and the external world integral to one another because the settings and the environment evoke the emotions and the feelings of the characters as they navigate their way through the complicated questions of morality.

The name of the novel, All Over Creation, is unique because it plays a rather impactful role in the theme of the narrative. Through Lloyd’s mental dictation, Ozeki, makes an allusion to religion and a high power. She makes a blasphemy of this invocation by questioning whether scientist have taken this greater beings place. Genetically modified organisms bring up moral questions and the scientists who “are now able to create novel life forms that have never existed on God’s earth” (105) as the people who cause heart ache as well as dilemmas involving ethical agricultural practices. This dual relationship between the deity and the scientific becomes a interplay of the value of the natural world. The creation of GMOs, pesticides, and other forms of scientific agricultural advances are seen as supernatural to the community. Farming is cultural; it's passed down through families and as the practices and the ethics began to change there is a retaliation. Lloyd in his senile state is not oblivious to the shift in roles,

Ecopolitics as an umbrella term to green movements deal with environmental sustainability and the planet's well being, however, it also encompasses social justice issues like humane practices and socio-economics. For Yumi her name even becomes a culture clash as she balances between her identities as a Japanese American. She corrects Elliot when he asks if he pronunciation of her name is “‘Yummi?’ stating:‘No not like gummy. Like you. And me.’” This connection of You and me becomes in a way an a celebratory anthem to the interconnection of the environment and the personal. The novel makes apparent how little divide there is between the two ideas while illuminating the humanitarian principle and need to see the human species in contact with the natural world.  The idea that: “It's poisoning you'” in regards to these practices creates a green friendly narrative (77). Ozeki points out ironically that poisoning the earth evidently poisons the human body. The identity of a person is deeply affected by their environments and in context to the novel this environment is not only situations but also physical. Harm towards the planet has a reciprocal effect on the future of our own species well being and on the development of our future generations livelihood and self-assessment.