Manusya, Journal of Humanities


Wisarut Painark

Publication Date



This paper examines how an individual's perception of the environment not only affects her treatment of the land but also plays an important role in healing her wounded self and fostering her sense of belonging to the human community in Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Dreams (1991). It will draw upon Yi-fu Tuan's notion of place and space in Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (1977) and Kent C. Ryden's notion of "the invisible landscape" in Mapping the Invisible Landscape: Folklore, Writing, and the Sense of Place (1993). Tuan postulates that space becomes place when it is endowed with value and meaning and Ryden develops Tuan's notion by arguing that meaningful human experience in a place constitutes what he calls "the invisible landscape" which refers to various other dimensions of the land apart from its physicality. Focusing on the development of the protagonist's perception of her hometown from a sense of alienation to a more intimate relationship in Animal Dreams, this paper will specifically argue that, because her hometown faces a disastrous contamination of the river caused by the mining company, the environmental activism in which the protagonist engages significantly deepens her understanding of the place. Thus, her participation in the environmental campaign serves as a first step towards her discernment of the "invisible landscape" and also her process of healing. The environmental activity which protects both the environment and the community's cultural identity and also the protagonist's developing bonds with people in the community expose her to the historical, cultural and spiritual dimensions of the land. Furthermore, this renewed perception leads to the protagonist's inhabitation of the place and her discovery of a sense of home which helps to restore her shattered self from the traumatic experience and the feeling of displacement caused by the loss of her mother and her baby during her younger years; it also induces her to reappraise her sense of selfhood as being inseparable from both the land and its inhabitants, either human or non-human. Ultimately, her clear appreciation of this more inclusive sense of self and the environment enables her to reintegrate herself into the community of her hometown.

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