Good and Bad in establishing Eco-Criticism

Ozeki’s All Over Creation is an entertaining novel. A quick read, which when compared to Animal’s journey in Animal’s People, took nowhere near the toll on me. Beyond the entertainment value, however is there more to this novel? Does this novel actually drift into the realm of eco-criticism? I would argue that it does without a doubt cross that line.

The work as a whole introduces a clear struggle between “good” and “bad”, which give the novel an almost predictable argumentative quality. However to be considered eco-criticism a novel has to have more than an argument, there obviously has to be an environmental element as well. Ozeki tackles this aspect of the novel in an interesting way. She uses nature, and more specifically agriculture to influence the reader as they begin to establish who is the “good” in the work. To discuss this I want to first expand on the opening passage we discussed in class on Tuesday. In this instance Ozeki leads he reader through an extended metaphor that ends in the instance in which the reader themselves are plant pushing “up through the sedimentary minerals” (Ozeki 1). This moment is important to establishing the novel as an eco-criticism in that it places the reader on a side, and that side is intimately tied to nature. Through this metaphor, housed in the very first pages of the novel, the reader is thrust into a position where they are on apart of nature “group” and the reader is always going to want to owe their alliance to “good”.

Ozeki then goes on to expand this group. Various characters throughout the novel are described as being one with nature as, establishing their connection to the reader. Several more exotic instances even include humans dressing as vegetables. We see an example of this in Cassie’s play. “Cassie had started out as a pea. … but by the time she got to fourth, she had gained so much weight they made her a potato.”(7).

In this novel there is a conscious effort by Ozeki to establish a group through the use of nature. In defining groups in a novel as “good” or “human” through the use of nature or in the cause a by product of nature undoubtedly forces your work into the realm of the Environmental Novel, or eco-criticism because of the apparent contrast it creates to any opposition.

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One Response to Good and Bad in establishing Eco-Criticism

  1. carriereed says:

    I really like how you’ve identified the various groups in the novel as another type of metaphor. In this case, group camaraderie, or fellowship, is a metaphor for environmental harmony. Elliot’s eventual termination from his job highlights the failing of his own group (big business) to support him. The seeds of resistance, the more questioning potato farmers, and the Fullers’ customers all come together at some point in the novel to support each other and see one another through difficult times. It’s as though the successful groups are part of a larger, self-sustaining eco-system – a functioning environment that thrives despite differences and unforeseen problems. Functioning groups of people mirror functioning eco-systems, like the necessary chaos of biodiversity. Groups that do not serve the environment ultimately fail, as shown by Elliot’s firing and the eventual failure of the Nulifes (of course it’s maybe more of a setback than a failure). You say that groups contrast with their opposition and show the novel to be a work of eco-criticism, and I think that’s because the successful groups stick together through chaotic situations to ultimately serve the environment, whereas the unsuccessful groups serve monetary interests first and foremost.