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Potatoes are People Too! *draft*

Lavender_Gooms's picture

Elena Luedy

Professor Cohen



Potatoes are People Too

            In All Over Creation, Ruth Ozeki continually uses the environment as a backdrop for her story. The characters are a reflection of the environment they live in. Many of the main characters in the story are a representation of where they came from, as their environment as shaped them into who they are. Not only is the environment used as the setting for the story, but you can see the characters being the physical embodiment of the environment.

Yumi, a Japanese-American living in Idaho. Living in an area that is predominantly white with the exception of a few Native Americans, Yumi felt that she stood out amongst the crowd. Instead of feeling the need to fit in however, she began to wear things that made her stick out more. (insert bindi wearing yumi quote). This is very different to Yumi’s son’s experience in Idaho.

Phoenix, who grew up in Hawaii, was more accustomed to people who live an alternate lifestyle. (insert quote about the kids liking the spuds bc missing Hawaii). Hawaii’s impact on Phoenix is clearly evident as he speaks Hawaiian even in Liberty Falls.  Living in Idaho becomes increasingly difficult for Phoenix as he is bullied for not resembling the others. When asked why he is a target and his sister is not, Phoenix simply gives the answer “she’s blonde”.  This shows that the students at Liberty Falls have a low tolerance for those that easily stick out. Even when Cass, a woman who has spent her whole life in Liberty Falls, has Poo in her arms, she notices that people look at him differently because he is noticeably darker than her.

            We even see environment playing a role in Elliot’s life. When Elliot is a teacher in Liberty Falls, he has just come from college, which was very open minded and optimistic. Coming from that environment, Elliot is full of optimism and zeal. 20 years later, he has been living in DC, with a cutthroat job. All of the optimism he had in his younger days has dried up. No longer is he talking about the injustices of the world and how he can change the world, instead he is just interested in furthering his own career.

            Frank is another example of his environment shaping who he is. Growing up bouncing around from foster home to foster home has left Frank with a thirst for camaraderie, yet he still prefers a more turbulent atmosphere. (quote about how frank liked demonstrations).

            Although Ruth Ozeki shows how the environment has shaped the characters, in an almost obvious way, the characters themselves are also represented as the physical embodiment of the environment. For example, Yumi is similar to a potato in many respects. Her upbringing with Lloyd and Momoko is similar to their beliefs in the seed business. Lloyd believed in monoculture, just as how he wanted Yumi to be more like the people around her. As he gets older though, he becomes more tolerant to alternate lifestyles which is shown in his acceptance of Y and the rest of The Seeds, which is similar to how he becomes more invested in his wife’s business.

            Yumi feels that running away at 14 she never grew up, almost as if she was ripped from the mother earth before she was fully ready to emerge. The use of harmful pesticides is also used as a metaphor for how Yumi interacts with Elliot. His presence in her younger self was poisonous and tainted her, as well as killed off all the beneficial insects that could have led to Yumi’s blooming into a healthy young woman. Elliot also helped Yumi have an abortion much like the genetically engineered seeds that kill off their own offspring.

            All Over Creation is not a book strictly on the environment. It is instead a novel concerned with the relationships between ourselves as humans and the environment. Ruth Ozeki does a brilliant job of infusing the environment into the characters as well as showcasing how different environments can shape the characters that live in them.




Works Cited

Ozeki, Ruth L. All over Creation. New York: Viking, 2003. Print.


jccohen's picture


I like the way your claim has two parts, the first more obvious, the second bolder.  I wonder how the intro paragraph might highlight the fact and relationship of these two claims more engagingly to bring us into the essay.

But the physical embodiment part of the essay also has some glitches.  For example, Cass is the one always compared to a potato; why Yumi here?  And Lloyd believe in diversity in nature, and somewhat in humans – though I agree with your more nuanced reading there.  The second to last paragraph has lots of ideas and examples that I think would make an effective base for the second part of your claim, and I’d suggest opening this up – elaborating into two or three paragraphs.

Nice conclusion!