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Dynamic Identities

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Breana Genaro


Altering Environments and Dynamic Identities

            The environment and identity are both very dynamic systems that are interrelated and present in All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki. A person’s environment forms his or her identity by determining the way he or she perceives the world around them from an early age. The environment serves a vital force in early development and character building; it determines how someone plays, whom someone is exposed to, and what that person is exposed to. It can also define morals and beliefs, all of which combine to form someone’s identity. The environment at Liberty Falls has a fundamental impact on the way Lloyd, Cass, and Yumi perceive the world; however, Yumi spends half her childhood on her own, which contributes to her perception of the world and formation of her identity. Unlike Cass and Lloyd, she experiences new environments before she is fully developed. On the other hand, Elliot was raised in an environment completely different from Liberty Falls, explaining the different way he perceives the world and the fundamental concepts of life.

            Liberty Falls, Idaho is a small, rural farming town. Growing up in a town like this meant many vast open fields, countless hours spent outdoors, and learning about the family business – farming. Idaho consists of numerous family farms and vast farmland; Lloyd owned a farm

In Power County, Idaho, where the mighty Snake River carved out its valley and where volcanic ash enriched the soil with minerals vital to its tilth, there stretched a vast tract of land known as Fuller Farms. Vast, by human scale. Vast, relative to other farmer’s holdings in the region, like the Quinn’s’ place down the road (Ozeki, 3).

 In Idaho, every day life consists of farming: planting seeds, watering crops, harvesting crops, and repeat. Lloyd, Cass and Yumi were all exposed to this type of environment at a young age. Due to the farming lifestyle, people are extremely dependent on natural events, like weather, time, and soil fertility. Due to this dependency, Lloyd and Cass are more religious, more traditional, and more conservative. In Liberty Falls, seeds and the soil controls Lloyd, Cass, and Will’s prosperity and happiness; they depend on the soil to be fertile in order for the potatoes to grow. They depend on the harvest to be hardy in order to make a living for the winter. Many of these factors are uncontrollable. They just have to have faith. They have faith in the seeds. Cass, Lloyd and Will all have symbiotic relationships with the land, which causes them to be more patient, and down the earth people and influences their identity. Lloyd trusts the land and puts his life and prosperity in its hands; “It was his soil, built up carefully with generous orations of nitrogen-fixing crops, year after year. Recycling nutrients. Never taking out more than you gave back. So different from the way they farmed potatoes now. This soil had life” (254).

            On the other hand, Yumi was raised in Liberty Falls, but did not allow the environment to completely dictate her identity. Yumi was completely immersed in her environment at a young age because of Lloyd’s farm. She helped him with the work and explored the vast landscapes. However, she never felt completely at home in the land of potatoes, possibly due to her Japanese heritage. She states, “Honestly, I never liked potatoes much. I preferred rice, a taste I inherited from my mother, Momoko, and which, in a state of spuds, was tantamount to treason” (4). As Yumi began to grow, she begins to grow, she feels more separated from her environment, causing her to question her real identity. She begins to act out in ways that are in defiance of Lloyd and Momoko’s values. She smokes in the fields with Cass, she dates boys, and eventually she has sexual relations with her teacher and has an abortion. Although these events are not her fault because she was under the legal age of consent, she needs to feel something, like love, and find herself. Yumi begins to form an identity that contrasts her environment. She feels like her actions will bring too much shame to her family and community. She feels “like [she] was a random fruit in a field of genetically identical potatoes” (4).  So she decides to change environments. After a couple years elsewhere, she finally settled down in Hawaii, a much more active environment, that could foster her rambunctious identity. Where she lived in Hawaii

There’s a place where you can walk right out onto an active lava flow. You’re not supposed to, but you can. It’s flowing right down from a volcano, and the crust is so hot you can feel it burning through the rubber of your soles. If you go at night and look down, you can see cracks in the black crust and the red-hot molten lava flowing underneath, just inches from your feet. And you know that if you make a wrong step where the crust is too thin, your foot will go right through and that’ll be the end of it. (226-227)

The high-risk and dangerous environment of Hawaii is more suited towards Yumi’s personality, and cultivates it more, so that when she returned to Liberty Falls her old self comes rushing back like a tidal wave.

            The environment in which Cass, Lloyd, Will, and Yumi live in all affects the way they perceive the world around them and how they develop their own identities. The vast landscape of Idaho and the active Hawaiian environment both foster different types of people, and Yumi, for example, is a mixture of both environments.


Works Cited

Ozeki, Ruth. All Over Creation. New York: Penguin, 2003. Print.