Friday, January 21, 2011


A tree

Cannot grow

In its parents’ shadow. (pg 82)

This Earthseed verse, which Lauren wrote in response to her father’s refusal to let her have a gun, clearly shows how Lauren feels about her parents and her parents’ generation. As early as page 8, Lauren shows that she does not feel that her parents understand the reality of the world they live in: “They never miss a chance to relive the good old days or to tell kids how great it’s going to be when the country gets back on its feet and good times come back. Yeah.” Lauren never knew the world her parents grew up in, and thus cannot fully understand how devastating the current state of the country must be to those who lived through happier times. Her parents’ tendency to dwell on the past seems somewhat silly to her because of this lack of understanding, and she obviously feels that their time would be better spent preparing for the future.

In the passage before the Earthseed verse, Lauren questions her father about what were to happen if they were forced to leave the cul-de-sac. She seems disappointed by the fact that her father would stay in California and writes this verse, which also alludes to her ultimate plan to leave and head north herself. Again, her disappointment stems from the fact that she does not feel that her parents are adequately preparing for the future. In this passage as well as later ones Lauren expresses the idea that society might be better off if it were able to shake off the constant pressure of its past, a pressure applied by adults who still live in the last century and assume that the country will eventually get back on track by itself. When Lauren decides to leave her neighborhood she is also clearly expressing that she does not believe that she can survive and prosper surrounded by people in denial about the state of the world. Although she obviously loves her father and respects his attempts to protect his family, she also obviously feels that his commitment to the neighborhood and to California is holding her back. These contradicting feelings are more clearly defined when she speaks at her father’s unofficial funeral.

In her sermon the main moral Lauren communicates is that it is important to persist, and that with persistence the weak can overcome the strong. She essentially tells her neighbors that she believes that their small island of safety can remain if they continue to fight off the outside world. This is, of course, not her belief, and she says so later in the chapter: “as much as I want all that I said to be true, it isn’t. We’ll be moved, all right. It’s just of matter of when, by whom, and in how many pieces.” It seems ironic that even though Lauren’s father is no longer around to tell her that she shouldn’t frighten their neighbors, that she should try and teach them, she encourages their denial by lying to them. Even though she is no longer under the “shadow” of her father, she continues to appease her neighbors and thus propagates the behavior that she admittedly believes will cause the neighborhood’s destruction. She also postpones her trip north, and although it is out of love and concern for her family, it shows that the shadow might be more far reaching than she thinks. She is not easily able to shake off her or her parents’ past, even after the death of her father.

After writing the verse Lauren Asks “What does this one mean if you live in a cul-de-sac with a wall around it? What does it mean if you’re damned lucky to live in a cul-de-sac with a wall around it?” For Lauren, it seems that it means that it will be more difficult to escape the shadow than she thinks. After her father dies she has to consider the other people in her life, even though she feels that their resistance to change will eventually lead to their destruction. She seems to feel that she has been hindered throughout her life because she lives in a walled community that has attempted in part to separate itself from the reality of the outside world, but because it is safer, because she is “lucky” to live there, her decision whether or not to leave becomes a complicated one. She has not been dehumanized by the horrible conditions outside of the wall, so she still thinks about her family and Curtis and how her leaving will affect them.

Ultimately, Lauren is forced to leave when drug addicts burn down her neighborhood. I think this is an interesting response to the verse because it’s almost as if she is escaping the shadow by burning the tree down. In nature forest fires allow new plant growth in areas once dominated by fully-grown trees. Saplings are allowed to grow in the ashes that have replaced their parents’ shadows. Although Lauren is clearly grieved by the deaths of her family and friends, this may be the chance she was looking for to try and survive in the real world and spread her beliefs. Despite the fact that forest fires can destroy an area, many biologists look at them as a chance for a new start, an opportunity for new life. Again, although Lauren is devastated, it is a fresh start, and will hopefully take advantage of this situation to improve her own life as well as others through her new religion and her clear outlook on the state of the country.

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't have chosen this verse myself - my instincts tell me that it's too short. However, I think you've proven otherwise - there's plenty of material here. So, despite my instincts, I think you chose a fine verse, and you go in some interesting directions. I see this draft as unfocused, though.

    You spend a good bit of effort going over things which I believe are fairly obvious - that Lauren finds the people around her to be oblivious, etc. But you shortchange your most interesting material. Take, for instance, the fact that Lauren finds herself spinning out lies (or ideology, if you prefer) on the occasion of her father's funeral. This was a great place for a sustained analysis of, for instance, why she does what she does, or what she learns from this process of deception or self-deception, or what it says about the persistence of history. I also wonder if maybe part of what's going on is that she's learning to find some kind of balance between her own future-fixation and her parents' past-fixation (another topic which I feel that you're on the brink of cracking open).

    I also was both fascinated by and somewhat confused by the forest fire metaphor. It's a fine idea, don't get me wrong - it just seems underdeveloped. You could make it work really well, I think, by exploring tree (especially oak) and seed (especially acorn) metaphors through the book, using this verse as a way of organizing or beginning. But as is, it seems almost like an aside.

    Short version: I see some great material, but so far you're spending too much energy on the obvious and unimportant, and too little on developing one of your worthwhile ideas.