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Fear and Pride

rokojo's picture

Ozeki’s Novel, “All Over Creation” explores the way in which life is complexly interconnected. It explores our relationship to nature and to each other. It also establishes complex relationships that defy our expectations of how such relationships are supposed to work. One of the most interesting relationships explored in this novel is the one between Lloyd and his daughter Yumi. In this novel, Ozeki shows their relationship fall apart due to unrealistic expectations and unshakable moral differences.

Ozeki draws a connection between Lloyd’s potato farming and his parenting method. Lloyd’s potato cultivation serves as a metaphor for the way he views parenthood. The process of “cloning” potatoes is described; “It’s quick, simple, and reliable, and you can understand its appeal to farmers like my father, who are in total control. First you cut up a potato into small pieces, each containing an eye, and you plant these. the eyes grow into identical replicas of the parent.” (Ozeki, 57). Lloyd loves this process and potato growing in general. In many ways, he views parenthood in a similar way to potato growing. However, the thing is, children aren’t clones of their parents. There isn’t that level of control present in growing potatoes.

“The reason you clone rather than plant from seed is because potatoes, like human children, are wildly heterozygous...if you try to propagate a domesticated potato using seed, sexually, chances are it will not grow true to type. Instead it will regress, displaying a haphazard variety of characteristics, reminiscent of its uncultivated potato progenitors-it may prove superior to the parent plant or may be wildly inferior. at eight, gazing up at my father’s face, i didn’t know which was worse.” (Ozeki, 57).


Here, the metaphor is taken further and we are able to see one of the ways in which Lloyd struggled with parenthood in a way he never did with potato farming. Yumi wasn’t Lloyds clone. He couldn’t control her actions. As she grew into her own person, further and further apart from her father, he found it harder and harder to be a loving parent to her. Yumi describes this feeling, saying “You were always so anxious, how did you know that growing up meant you were becoming less of him?” (Ozeki, 19). This tension was made worse by Yumi’s unhealthy relationship with her history teacher and her subsequent abortion.

Although Lloyd’s relationship with Yumi had been tense in her early teenage years, everything was made worse when he found out about her abortion. Her father disapproved so much of Yumi’s actions that she felt like she could no longer stay in her hometown. Her evacuation was done out of necessity. Her father had no room in his heart for acceptance or forgiveness. Her town was too small and his influence too big. She needed to be away from that toxicity in order to try and grow in a less suffocating place. Yumi describes the feeling;

“I could tell that your shame was going to fill every crack of the house, seep into every second of the day, and suck the air right out of me. And when the word got around, there wasn’t going to be any room left for me to breathe in the whole of Power Country that wasn’t taken up with your shame...I knew if I stayed, I’d be poisoned by it. I’d grow up all screwy and bent with the weight of your shame. So I left. It was an evacuation, Daddy.” (Ozeki, 37).


Although this event triggered her running away, it was something that had been in the works in her mind for a long time. She had been feeling the weight of his disappointment even before she met Elliot. Describing her leaving to Cassie, she says; “I ran away because I loved him. I ran away because he used to love me, and then somewhere along the line, when he couldn’t control me anymore, he just stopped, you know?...I couldn’t stand that.” (Ozeki, 242).

When Yumi comes back into contact with her father, she still feels the pain of his rejection made worse by years without communication. Although she had in a way accepted his lack of contact, she still feels extremely hurt. The pain of her father’s disapproval comes to light when her father and Geek are talking about a type of seed that destroys its own embryo. This brings to the surface the conflict between Yumi and her father from years ago. She says, “That’s the kind of pro-life bullshit that drove me out of here in the first place.” (Ozeki, 267). Her father becomes outraged, saying “A life is a life!...It’s God’s gift, how can you be so careless?” (Ozeki, 267). All these years of not talking, of pain and estrangement, these issues  are resurfacing. These differences that drove them both apart are as strong as ever. Yumi still struggles to understand and reconcile her relationship with her father.

The question arises; why did her father never attempt to contact her after she ran away? Were her mistakes really enough to cause her father to completely give up on her? She asks her mother why he never wrote to her, why he ignored her all those years. Her mother says, “He never saw letters...He is too scared of her. He is too much coward...His heart attack make him like that, cut him down like a big tree...First she run away from him, then his heart go against him, too. After that he is always scared. Doc say when the man cannot trust his heart no more, maybe he gonna go a little crazy too.” (Ozeki, 333). This raises the question then, of what was Lloyd afraid of. It was already clear that his view of parenthood as farming created unrealistic expectations and impossible standards for Yumi to live up to. Yumi’s premarital sex and subsequent abortion were both absolutely unforgivable in Lloyd’s eyes also. Neither of these explain his fear of contacting Yumi. However, both of these offer insight into Lloyd’s true fear. He was a man very set in his ways, very religious and fundamentalist. He also loved Yumi. The trouble comes when these two parts of his identity come into conflict. How can he reconcile someone he loves so much going against his absolute convictions?  To uproot these convictions, to readjust his worldview would be too much for him to handle. However, to lose the love of his daughter would also be too much for him to handle. In this case, his convictions won out over his love. His fear of changing his deep seated beliefs outweighed his desire to have a relationship with his daughter.

This book is a little frustrating because as readers, we want a nice ending for Yumi and her father. We want reconciliation and explanation. However, we get none. When Lloyd dies, Yumi has a better understanding of his actions, however there is no conversation, no apologies. The book offers a potential counter to this dysfunctional relationship in Frankie’s fatherhood. However, this relationship, like Yumi’s and Lloyds, is different from what we expect in a father daughter relationship.


Anne Dalke's picture

[nice line, that!]
I’m liking very much the way in which this paper “opens up” the relationship between Yumi and her father, giving space both for the “wildly heterozygous” nature of the human child, and for the father-farmer who realizes, in great fear, that he cannot control the outcomes of his parenting, can not make his child hew to his own foundational beliefs. You’ve shifted from a first draft that was full of judgment and certainty to a version of reflection that’s much more exploratory, more open to a range of possibilities…
of particular interest to me is the way in which you “open” the paper’s ending, by calling our attention to Frankie’s fathering…and now I’d like to explore that with you a bit: he gives his child up for adoption, to “fight for the planet” and “save the world”…so how much “control,” how much “handing over,” do you see in his actions…?