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Rough (Rough) Draft: Farming Identity

gmchung's picture

This my (very) rough draft on exploring Frank's changing identity.

Grace Chung

Paper #6

October 24, 2014


Farming Identity


    The environment is always changing due to civilization. People chop trees down to clear land or build houses. Ruth Ozeki’s All Over Creation mentions the use of genetically modified organisms. In order to maximize profits, farmers use pesticides. However, the farmer is not completely at fault, as Will points out, “[Not using pesticides is] not that simple. Cold turkey would kill us…” (272). Because people have had some hand in shaping their environment, both their literal living environment to the people that they chose to spend their time with, their identity becomes shaped and formed through their environment.

    Frank begins to explore and find his identity only after he is on the road with the Seeds of Resistance. Frank’s first thought in the book while skateboarding is, “Fuckin’ wind--, fuckin’ wind--” (47). Frank does not appreciate the environment and sees the environment as a hassle. He is skating to his janitor job at McDonald’s. Unbeknownst to him, Frank makes a living by indirectly supporting GMOs by working for a corporation that buys genetically modified potatoes to cook as fries. Frank does not care about where his food comes from and is just allowing life to run its course. Frank “grown up in malls...and would have dropped out of school except he couldn’t think of anything more interesting to do” (55). In short, Frank is introduced without having a clear vision or goal for his life. He does not go to school to further his education and career, but instead goes to school to pass the time. Like the grayness and concrete suburb of Ashtabula, Frank reflected his environment by wishing for a way out and not focused on growth both personally and intellectually. It is only when Frank decides to change his environment does he begin his journey of finding his identity.

    Initially, Frank is just a nobody from, but as he continues traveling with the Seeds of Resistance, he slowly transitions into a hero and a person that Phoenix looks up to. Frank begins as virgin and uneducated in matters of genetically modified organisms. There is nothing too special about him. Frank then makes the life altering choice of living and being on the road with Y, Geek, Lilith, and Char. Frank changes his environment by choosing to associate with people with a strong affinity to banning GMOs and that helps jumpstart his journey to find his identity. After getting Char pregnant, Frank is not able to immediately connect a seed to life. When asked by Geek what Frank knows about seeds, Frank replies, “You find ‘em in apples? Spit ‘em out?” (123). It is only when Frank is further coaxed by Geek when he says, “Stuff grows from ‘em?” (123). Eventually after digging holes and planting seeds on the Fuller’s farm and then moving to Fresno, California, Frank is able to use seeds as part of his identity, “this was agriculture that Frankie could get his head around. Guerrilla gardening. Defiance farming. Radical acts of cultivation” (257). Frank begins to use the seeds to aid him in his bigger goal in life. He not only becomes a somebody after pieing the CEO of Nulife, but he also becomes inspired to continue in the more militant ways of protesting GMOs. Frank responds to his success by saying, “This is it!...I can’t explain it, but I know. This is the kind of shit that I gotta do. I was born for it” (260). Frank transitions from a teenage janitor at McDonald’s with almost no aspirations in life other than turn eighteen to a boy with a clear goal for his life in mind. Frank experiences happiness and bliss when he has finally found his passions and is able to find his identity through planting seeds. The atmosphere of the city enamors Frank and when the Seeds decide to go back to Lloyd’s farm, Frank is the only one who is upset. Frank is able to find his place again during the rally on Lloyd’s farm at the Guerrilla Gardening workshop. When asked by Geek if he could keep an eye out on Elliott, Frank asks, “‘Can I make one more of these first?’…eyeing the mud bucket and a jar of Rosy Everlasting” (291). While Frank is still going along with the Seeds of Resistance’s agenda, he is also starting to find a sect within the Seeds where he identifies with, connects to, and is a passionate about. Frank is transitioning from a boy who initially curses at the environment to a member of an anti-GMO organization whose main goal is to protect the environment from GMOs.

            Because humans are so involved with the physical environment in both negative and positive ways as well as their social environment, people allow their environment in which they live in as well as who their friends are to help form and shape their identity. 


mpatny's picture

The claim of the paper is that the environment helps shape a person's identity, but the environment itself is shaped by the identity of the person. I think that if you expanded more, and dindn't just talk about Frank, you could create a more comprehensive point. I think the idea is great, but the examples could be a little more spread out. 

mpatny's picture

I really think the claim is very interesting! It was something that I never really thought about before. I knew that the environment can affect us, but I didn't realize how we also shape our enviroment. I think you can also write about how Yumi affected her own environment through her actions, and how the environment then, in turn, afected her and forced her to run away. 

wwu2's picture

Hey, Grace! It is really interesting that you are writing about the trasition of Frank, and you are doing a great job of narrating the character. However, I feel like you spend too much talking about the context rather than thinking about the text deeper. Meanwhile, I feel it may be better to bring out your thesis in the middle of your passage rather than at the end. It is a very nice essay overall! GOOD JOB!

wwu2's picture

Maybe by thinking questions like: how Frank was able to change? Why he from a proGMO person turn into a anti-GMO person?

Anne Dalke's picture

I’m glad you are focusing on Frank; his cluelessness is so engaging, and his education a pleasure to watch…and/but I don’t think you’ve got a “handle” yet on an interesting question to pursue about him. Yes, hanging out with the Seeds changes him—they give him a political education, and a cause…but that will be evident to any reader of Ozeki’s novel.

Why do you select him to center this paper around? What surprises you about him? What does his education teach us (for example) about how education happens, or about the environment that makes education possible? You’ll need a larger framing in order to “grow” this paper beyond a simple description of what happens to Frank, and the cliché that “organisms are shaped by their environment” isn’t getting you there yet…

Might you like to re-think that conventional distinction? If so, see Daniel Palmer’s essay, "On the Organism-Environment Distinction in Psychology,” Behavior and Philosophy 32, 2 (2004): 317-347:
* "the organism and the environment interpenetrate one another
through and through. The distinction between them…
is only a matter of practical convenience."
* "transactional" (rather than "interactional," which assumes separation),
* environment re-described as "medium" (rather than "surround"),
* "skin" as permeable membrane/constructed/unstable boundary.
* "Life is an island here and now in a dying world...
We are but whirlpools in a river of ever-flowing water.
We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves."
* "the universe is in process, and objects may be considered only as
more or less  persistent regions in an onslaught of spatio-temporal change..."