Monday, August 15, 2011

Don't Be Ke$ha When You Are Aretha Franklin

When everyone was in about second grade, their teacher taught them about how each butterfly was once an entirely alternative being called a caterpillar. She also must have thrown in the term "cocoon" while you were thinking about how mean the cockney in front of you was for stealing your colorful eraser. Nevertheless, most everyone conceived the concept that there were two inseparable stages to a butterfly's life, two states completely indistinguishable from one another. Being the conceited little priss that I was, my brain never thought this knowledge would be applicable to life in the future. And I was only to be proved wrong years later by a book my very eyes devoured.
     State of Wonder by Anne Patchett describes the experiences of pharmacologist Marina Singh when getting to and living in the Amazon rain forest. After a colleague of Marina's named Anders Eckman dies there, Marina is sent by her boss and lover, Jim Fox, to both discover the exact cause of Eckman's death and oversee the progress of brilliant Dr. Annick Swenson, who is studying the indigenous Lakashi people so that a drug  permitting lifelong fertility in females can be forged. Singh's determination to discover how her colleague perished is intensified by a heart-wrenching plea from Karen Eckman, Anders' widow who is left with three mourning boys while she is still miserable herself, for information about the death. One found phenomenon unexpectedly turns out to be an alternative Dr. Marina Singh-the scant resources and dire situations that the Amazon present cause our main character to perform previously unthinkable actions. When an anaconda threatens to strangle her ever-lovable companion, a deaf boy named Easter, Marina suddenly finds enough courage to murder the great snake with a machete. Marina was once Dr. Swenson's gynecology student, but switched her major to pharmacology after performing a hasty cesarean (something I am so glad we didn't have to complete a lab about in biology) that blinded the baby she was delivering. When a Lakashi woman is in desperate need of a cesarean because her infant is (for lack of a better word) stuck, Marina finds herself forced by an incapable Dr. Swenson to actually conduct the necessitated procedure on a wooden floor with unsterilized equipment and shoehorns to hold open the uterus. When Dr. Fox actually comes into the Amazon to check on her, Marina doesn't tell him the imperative secret every doctor there is incubating: that Fox's investment is being used for, along with that fertility drug, the development of a malaria vaccine from which he will not fiscally benefit. Then it is discovered that Anders is really alive, which leads to Marina having sex with her former colleague on small cot.
     The Marina Singh who boarded that plane bound for the Amazon would never have executed any of the aforementioned actions. She loved Dr. Fox and therefore would never have desired to hurt his well-being. Karen Eckman was a morbid woman who reached out to Dr. Singh in a time of need, not a person whose spouse she would desire as a sexual partner. The bleak lab at Vogel Pharmaceutical company was her home, a place where discomforts meant tedious faculty meetings, not watching an anaconda strangle the life out of her friend. She had palpably turned into a butterfly somewhere along the way...
     All humans experience dramatic change-in-state's throughout their lives. It is imperative that after these changes transpire, we do not completely revert back to our previous state. What comes to the forefront of my mind when I think of this concept is the drastic change from childhood to adulthood-would I witness Barney singing on my television every twenty-four hours nowadays? Would I hold on to my parent's hand every time I cross the street now that I am a teenager? The reason behind this prohibition is that our previous states cannot support us as we attempt to fulfill our current potential for success. As arrogant a priss I was, there is no way I would be writing this post at the present time if I was yet to learn long division.
     Dr. Singh eventually returns to her Minnesota hometown with Anders and fondly watches her colleague's reunion with his family. It is then that Ms. Patchett composes an immensely vague sentence to culminate her narrative: "And Marina brought him back, and without a thought that anyone should see her, she told the driver to go on.(page 353)" I interpret this to mean that Marina brings the spirit of Anders and therefore the Amazon (the two are intertwined since she knows how that Amazonian endeavor started and ended because of him) back to her and uses them in forging her decision to once more be at the side of Dr. Swenson, who both predicted Marina's return and desired that Singh stay to work on the project with her. It is in the Amazon, not in Minnesota, that the new Marina can fulfill her potential to help develop the fertility drug and malaria vaccine. I cannot study records of a 1920s newspaper for my novel tomorrow if I spend all of the day at a day-care. Uomo di Speranza has switched from being raised by others to raising himself.
     So, my dear friends, insure that you do not crawl on the ground once you have turned from caterpillar to butterfly. You cannot be squashed by an unsuspecting foot if you are flying.


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