Obsession and Mental illness: Janina’s Mind

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead’ is a novel following an older woman named Janina as she tries to investigate a series of murders in her town. This novel takes on an interesting approach to its story as it not only allows for the protagonist to act as an unreliable narrator but also ignore standard grammar rules. As a result, the changes in sentences or paragraphs add emphasis in ways that a more conventional writing would be unable to do. It also allows us to look deeper into Janina’s mental state and views.

Throughout the novel, many readers will come to notice the bizarre capitalization for random words that typically wouldn’t be capitalized. Words such as ‘deer’, ‘ailment’ and ‘young ladies’ are only a few examples of words that had been capitalized all through the chapters. What this capitalization reveals about Janina is the subtle importance she places on such subjects, capitalization is usually saved for things like names, titles or certain locations, so to see it used so randomly is jarring enough to tip of the reader to pay attention. Its a very unique stylistic choice, one of which makes the reader further consider the mental state of Janina as well, since it is so different to “normal” sentence structure or thought.

Janina could be considered obsessed with animals, since though out most of the novel that’s most of what she talks about. Animals are the center of Janina’s world, and she views them above humans and even herself. Some might consider her viewing them as god like in a way, with their mental capability being almost – if not – the same as humans. While some would say they too view animals in a similar way to Janina, there is a major difference between the average person love for animals and Janina’s dangerous obsession. While not confirmed, it could be possible that Janina’s obsession could be a result of her failing mental health, possibly due to age or even because of the grief after losing her mother and her ‘Little Girls’ (dogs).

Another possible hint at Janina’s failing mental health could be the amnesia she gets after (spoiler) commiting each murder. While it isn’t impossible for more mentally stable people to forget things, traumatic events – like a murder – are a bit harder to forget, and when they are its typically a trauma response that most would consider a connection to mental illness.

This is all to say; it is highly likely that Janina was suffering from some sort of mental illness that was making her more susceptible to committing such violent acts. But, seeing as its never confirmed in the novel, we will never know.

Janina Loves Nature

Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over The Bones of the Dead is a novel that explores the themes of human nature and its relationship with the world. The novel’s protagonist, Janina, is a complex character deeply connected to nature in many ways.

First, Janina is a keen observer of the natural world. She often draws inspiration from the world to make sense of her own life. For example, she believes that the movements of the stars and planets are intimately connected to the human experience and can offer answers to existence. Janina also spends much of her time studying and collecting the different flora and fauna in the forests surrounding her home, even developing a theory that animals are capable of committing crimes and acting with a sense of purpose.

Another point is that Janina deeply reveres the natural world and sees it as a fragile and sacred artifact that must be protected and respected. She is outraged by the hunting of her neighbors and is willing to take extreme measures to prevent the killing of animals, such as sabotaging the equipment of local hunters. Janina’s belief in the value of nature is tied to her larger worldview, which emphasizes the connection to all living organisms.

Overall, Janina’s connection to nature is profound and reflects her complex personality. Through her deep observation and admiration for the natural world, she offers a compelling perspective on the relationship between humans and the environment.

Drive the Plow and Übermensch

Throughout Drive the Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Astrology is present in Janina’s mind. She studies the characteristics stars and planets give to people and uses her findings to explain how some people are the way they are. She also believes that she can tell a person’s time and reason of death based on astrology. Janina is a spiritual person, although her practices are unconventional. When she is revealed to have murdered three men, I started to question her beliefs. She accurately predicted that Big Foot died because of an animal, and she did not interfere in that instance. I wonder if she had preconceived notions about the other three men based on astrology and assumed that it was her job to make her predictions come true. The fact that the men die in the ways Janina predicts makes the reader question whether her predictions were true or not. If you take it one way, you could say that the entire thing was determined by fate and it was predetermined for Janina specifically to kill them. If you take it the other, it makes Janina’s beliefs seem flawed and illogical; she would have seemed to force her prediction to come true, and without her interference they wouldn’t have come true. I think Janina assuredly believes in fatalism (the belief that every event on earth and all outcomes are predetermined by the universe or a higher power,) and this makes me question her beliefs about karma. I do not think Janina believes in karma, and because of this she is driven to take it into her own hands for these men to get what she thinks they deserve. This is in line with Übermensch, the idea of someone who believes themself to be above any moral or belief system and enacts their own idea of divine judgement. Many of her values and morals are contradictory and she doesn’t subscribe to any religion, which makes me think that she views herself as an Übermensch. She mentions her feelings of being a “vessel” for nature itself to enact judgement, which is a perfect example of this idea. I also wonder if she is partially motivated to inflict such violence because she “knows” when she is going to die. She supposedly knows her time and cause of death using her birthdate and astrological theorems. Does she commit these crimes because she knows she won’t die?

The Power of Astrology

The question of explaining our meaning on earth has been present for centuries. People find ways to explain their existence through means such as religion or astrology. The Polish novel translated into English, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, tells the story of an elderly Polish woman as she battles the purposes of humanity and nature. 

Throughout the novel, the author, Tokarczuk, employs long passages about astrology. While the passages are asking to be skimmed over or forgotten altogether, they contribute to a much larger argument Tokarczuk is making. First of all, Janina finds extreme comfort in astrology as a way to explain not only the universe, but individuals. She uses astrology as a way to convenience herself that the rest of society that does not share her same beliefs is crazy, and she is not. In the midst of her unethical and illegal actions, they reinforce that she is doing the right thing. Secondly, her astrology provides a framework for one of the novel’s largest questions of whether one should live to be a part of nature or conform to immoral societal norms. Janina strongly believes in the former, and Tokarczuk’s use of astrology as meaning bolsters this overarching tension in the novel.

Impact of Janina’s Narration in Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

The narrator of Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Janina, tells the story in a way that twists the minds of the readers. The use of an unreliable narrator results in many different perspectives on the story. We are introduced to Janina and immediately are put in her mind to see the old, innocent woman we think she is. The way Tokarczuk chooses to have Janina be the narrator really alters the reader’s view of the events in the story and causes us to believe Janina is innocent for most of the story.

In addition, in class, we discussed how being in Janina’s mind caused us as readers to be missing a lot of important information and resulted in us just thinking she was a crazy old lady with insane theories. Her belief that the animals killed all those people also made us think that she was just a madwoman and could not be capable of the murders.

All in all, the unreliable narrator really enhances the plot twist at the end because from the beginning of the novel Tokarczuk wrote in a way so that the readers would sympathize with her outlook on life and belief in animal rights.

The Seven Deadly Sins in Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

In Christianity there are said to be seven deadly sins which are the actions and behaviors that God is believed to hate the most. These seven sins are the disordered and perverted side of all things good and they go as follows: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. These sins are the focal point of many famous historical works but how do they fit in Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead? Maybe a lot more than you’d think.

Greed & Gluttony

In terms of their nature, greed and gluttony are very closely related, being sins of overconsumption to the point of waste and hoarding by means of violence. In the novel they remain just as close. One of Janina’s biggest triggers is the hunting of animals, especially for sport. Hunting is a dearly held tradition in the town but the hunters take it to extremes, killing animals and leaving them in the snow or simply wasting parts that could be utilized. The men in the novel end up dead because of their actions regarding this. Innerd is introduced as “that rich fellow” (129) and when referring to the money found on the Commandant’s corpse, Janina is sure that it was a bribe from Innerd (131), who coincidentally turns up dead not long after. It was not necessary to mention that Innerd was known for his wealth and that was actually the biggest indicator of his future death. On the flip side of this is Janina’s vegetarianism because for each mortal sin there is a capital virtue. 

Lust & Sloth

Lust is in the same group of sins as greed and gluttony with all of them being sins of desire and while this sin is not very important for Janina’s purpose, there are still some interesting examples throughout the novel. While it may be quite a stretch, it’s interesting that when Boros is explaining beetles and pheromones to Janina, she makes note of it and then uses the animals’ reproduction instincts to later kill someone.

Sloth is another sin that doesn’t play a vital role but it could be defined as either indifference to duties or overall laziness. This could be analyzed through Janina’s Ailments or her beliefs that humans have some sort of duty or way they need to act within nature. Again, that’s entirely up for interpretation but Janina does express disdain on numerous occasions for those not only actively killing animals but those who tolerate and even encourage it; she may see it as the shirking of duties.


Envy is one of the more complex sins and it is characterized by selfish desire and want and especially covetous feelings toward another. Envy is not so blatant in the novel but it can be seen in Janina’s feelings about animals; she feels such a deep connection with them and a desire to protect them to the point that she is nearing envy. And at a certain point she isn’t even envious, she just believes she is an animal, or at least a conduit for them. These feelings about animals play a large role in her motivation to kill.


Pride is the original and supposedly worst of the seven deadly sins. Pride is the opposite of virtuous humility and is defined by extreme selfishness and putting your own desires first. We see this often in the novel, especially in the townspeople and hunters with their disregard for nature and life other than their own. When Janina confronts a group of hunters in the woods, they attempt to justify their actions by saying they’re well within their rights to do what they want and this infuriates Janina. And while Janina has a deep connection with nature and animals, she can be quite prideful herself; she quite literally kills multiple men because she was putting her desires first.


 Wrath is most often associated with hatred and a desire to enact revenge on another person, making it probably the most prevalent sin in the novel. Janina’s feelings of hatred and anger are explicitly mentioned dozens of times and after all, it is what drives her to kill. In the Old Testament, God is known for his wrath to be precise and most of all, provoked. God’s wrath is a response to evil, it is not portrayed as retribution, but as righteous judgment. Janina may vehemently reject traditional ideas of religion but she’s certainly a believer in divine judgment and punishment. Does Janina not act as God would, doling out punishments for the desecration of holiness? She more so is concerned with the desecration of nature and animals but the principle is eerily similar. 

I suppose the point to take from Janina’s actions is that when men behave like animals, you put them down like animals.

Is she really “crazy”?

The notion that humans are the central, most intelligent beings on our planet is considered a given to most. However, in Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Janina wholly rejects this idea in a multitude of ways. Religiously, socially, and physically, she moves to oppose the unjust hierarchy that surrounds her. Janina’s actions in Drive Your Plow illuminate the main sentiment of the book that humans are only one small part of our universe and their life is not more important than another species’ life. Additionally, it shows audiences all of the ways to fight against the status quo as Janina goes to multiple varying lengths to fight for her cause. Her commitment to her philosophy mirrors real-life groups that will stop at nothing to carry out their agenda; yet, many view her as “crazy” or “psychotic”. Why is this?

Whether or not her commitment to her moral beliefs and her resulting actions were right or not is something very subjective to readers. While I do not support murder (I do eat meat, though, so there’s one contradiction), I do applaud her moral continuity. She stuck to her moral compass so securely, something many are afraid or do not have the self-reflection to do. To me, she is no different from political radicals or rebel military groups that we see around the world and, while they may take violent action, in many cases, these groups arise in response to gross injustice. Whether their community has been persecuted or they are standing up for the voiceless (as in Janina’s case), these groups have often been ignored in their pleas for justice as those who they are pleading to gain something from the status quo. Those in power will most likely not listen to those who are asking them to change circumstances that benefit them. Therefore, these groups turn to violence to retaliate for being the victims of violence and for their pleas for equality being ignored.

Janina is not so outlandish in this instance when we come to understand that her fight for her moral beliefs is no different than the fight of other humans for their moral beliefs. To be persecuted and wanting to retaliate is something all humans can empathize with. However, Janina is fighting for justice for animals. As humans, we accept our own superiority over other beings, and the thought that one would take radical violent action to defend the lives of animals is completely abnormal. When Janina is revealed as the killer, those around her are shocked at her actions, and she takes this as further proof of humans’ perceived superiority. Because of this false perception, they view the abuse of animals as acceptable yet the abuse of humans in karmic retaliation is not. This hypocrisy fuels her anger and thus her killing and shows audiences the same glaring contradiction in our own minds. We must address this hypocrisy as a species if we wish to develop our moral and philosophical viewpoints.

Disproving Astrology, Once and For All

Humans have a chronic issue of obsessively trying to explain the world and everything around them. About 70 million Americans read their horoscopes every day, and it is becoming increasingly more popular, especially among young people. In Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Janina is obsessed with calculating horoscopes and goes on page long tangents that almost leave readers believing they are true, almost. As a teenager in the age of social media and unrestricted access to the internet, I too have fell victim and seen my peers fall victim to the trap of astrology. But let’s disprove it once and for all, delete those apps and stop telling people the reason their boyfriend was toxic to them was because “he’s a Scorpio”. So here is some REAL science. 

The earth is made up of nickel, iron, silicon, oxygen and other minerals that orbit the sun at 67,000 miles per hour. From our perspective, it seems the backdropped provided by the sky moves over head, the sun rises and sets. But of course it is the Earth that is actually moving and rotating about its axis. It moves through our solar system and makes a full lap around the sun every 365 days, we know this. As the earth moves we see different stars overhead, unless you’re at one of the poles. The 12 signs given in the horoscope map out the zodiac, the 12 constellations we pass by in the course of a year. If your a Libra, that means you were born late September to early October and the sun was towards the constellation, Libra. Except thats not quite right. The Earth has an additional form of motion called precession, “as Earth rotates, it wobbles slightly upon its axis, like a slightly off-center spinning toy top”. Since the time astronomers and astrologers started mapping out the constellations and zodiacs in the sky (some thousand years ago), our position relative to those constellations has drifted about 30 degrees, or one whole month. This means you may think your a libra but if horoscopes were connected to their present day constellations you’d actually be more like a Leo. So is astrology scientific? In 1985 Sean Carlson conducted a test, he asked 30 American and European astrologers to review the charts for 116 people without meeting them in person. He then provided 3 personality descriptions for each of the 116 people, one which was actually true for the subject, and the other two that described other people. He asked the astrologers to match the personality with the results from their chart, ultimately they were only able to make the correct match 1/3 of the time, in other words, given that there were only 3 personality options, they already had a 1/3 chance of getting it right, so basically they accomplished nothing significant. Carlson concluded astrologers likely work off the body language and reactions of their clients during meetings to improve their odds if guessing relative details about their lives, this is called cold reading. Cold reading is the key to fake science, used by astrologers, psychics, fortune-tellers, and mediums. All of which are absolutely unscientific and fake professions. 

So, while Janina may have you pausing and debating whether or not to visit MyHoroscope.com, I hope this was able to shed light on how incredibly unreasonable and false it all is. I wonder what Janina would say if someone confronted her with these facts.

Expanding on My Groups Presentation

Sickness and the concept of Ailments play quite a large role in Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. As I began to explore the many thematic statements made in the novel, I stumbled upon ideas such as the impact of military/police on society, growing up, and memory. However, the topic of sickness stuck out most to me and I became excited to share about this topic in class. Unfortunately, my group ran out of time so I will reflect on the topic in this blog post. The passage below does a very nice job summarizing Janina’s perspective on sickness, Ailments, and their impact on an individual in society.

“It occurred to me that he was a very good Person, this Boros. And it was a good thing he had his Ailments. Being healthy is an insecure state and does not bode well. It’s better to be ill in a quiet way, then at least we know what we’re going to die of.” [Page 167]

At the start of the novel, Janina finds her Ailments to be troubling and becomes increasingly embarrassed of her supposed condition. This passage directly depicts her new profound perspective of sickness — and how it isn’t such a bad thing. Janina is able to bond with Boros over his shared tendencies and she realizes that their shared “condition” serving as a point of connection.

In my opinion, Janina views sickness as a way to differetarent yourself from other members of society. She also believes that being fully “healthy” does not allow you to feel uncomfortable — something necessary to advance as members of society. Janina has been able to experience growth because of her illness. Now my question for you, what does sickness/Ailments reveal about the characters that make up Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead?

Beginning and End of the Universe Motif in Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

As one reads Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, many motifs begin to surface throughout the novel; one such motif is mentions of the beginning and end of the universe, as well as the continuous passage of time outside of a human lifespan.

For example, while Janina watches the weather channel:

So is it true that we live on the surface of a sphere, exposed to the gaze of the planets, left in a great void, where after the Fall the light was smashed to smithereens and blown apart? It is true. We should remember that every day, for we do tend to forget. We believe we are free, and that God will forgive us. Personally I think otherwise. Finally, transformed into tiny quivering photons, each of our deeds will set off into Outer Space, where the planets will keep watching it like a film until the end of the world.

page 20

While she looks out over the Plateau, imagining what it used to look like:

There could have been nothing but grass here – large clumps of wind-lashed steppe grass and the rosettes of thistles. That’s what it could have been like. Or there could have been nothing at all – a total void in outer space. But perhaps that would have been the best option for all concerned. 

As I wandered across the fields and wilds on my rounds, I liked to imagine how it would all look millions of years from now. Would the same plants be here? And what about the colour of the sky? Would it be just the same? Would the tectonic plates have shifted and caused a range of high mountains to pile up here? Or would a sea arise, removing all reason to use the word ‘place’ amid the idle motion of the waves? One thing’s for sure – these houses won’t be here; my efforts are insignificant, they’d fit on a pinhead, just like my life as well. That should never be forgotten.

page 26

While confronting hunters near her house:

At that point I felt a surge of Anger, genuine, not to say Divine Anger. It flooded me from inside in a burning hot wave. This energy made me feel great, as if it were lifting me off the ground, a mini Big Bang within the universe of my body. There was fire burning within me, like a neutron star.

page 30

While working on her astrology charts:

At this very moment, as I write, there’s a planetary configuration on this table, the entire Cosmos if you like: a thermometer, a coin, an aluminium spoon and a porcelain cup. A key, a mobile phone, a piece of paper and a pen. And one of my grey hairs, whose atoms preserve the memory of the origins of life, of the cosmic Catastrophe that gave the world its beginning.

page 67

And while she sits in prison, reflecting on life:

Sparks come from the very source of light and are made of the purest brightness – so say the oldest legends. When a human Being is to be born, a spark begins to fall. First it flies through the darkness of outer space, then through galaxies, and finally, before it falls here, to Earth, the poor thing bumps into the orbits of planets. Each of them contaminates the spark with some Properties, while it darkens and fades.

page 100

This motif is one of the many ways Tokarczuk’s writing gives us insight into the unique inner workings of Janina’s mind. She sees everything as part of a whole: a complex system that makes up our world. This perspective is part of where her compassion for animals comes from; to Janina, every human and animal life plays an equally important role in the larger equation of the universe. The other side of that coin is her view that morality and the greater system is more important than individual life, which becomes part of her rationale for murdering the hunters.

Additionally, in a few instances Janina references the Big Bang (a “cosmic Catastrophe”), in reference to herself and her own emotions. This idea ties into the other ways Janina likes to describe herself as one with nature and the universe. She manages her pain by picturing herself reborn as a jellyfish, convinces herself she can communicate with the animals that live nearby her, has dreams about visits from dead relatives, are describes her anger as a fire or a universe-beginning explosion. Janina doesn’t just see the world as a divine system, she also sees herself as uniquely in tune to that system. She very well may be more reflective and in touch with nature than other characters in the novel, but the reader can also see this cognitive distortion grow throughout the book and eventually become something dark and dangerous.

On yet another layer, the mentions of an aging and dying universe that will long outlive both Janina and humanity as a whole could be seen as a parallel to her own aging and struggles with her Ailments. She is grappling with the reality of illness and inevitable death, so it makes sense that she would reflect on the world’s lifespan and the ways her community will outlive her. Her age gives her a unique perspective not always represented in novels, and part of the way that manifests is her ability to look at things on a larger scale that couldn’t be fathomed by a younger narrator.

And finally, the motif could also be said to reflect the way Janina finds the bad in good things and the good in bad things. She once refers to herself as seeing the world “through a dark mirror,” and one could argue that thinking of the world as born from destruction and headed towards inevitable decay is an example of this kind of pessimistic mindset. But alternatively, the reader could think of it as Janina’s way of finding joy in “Catastrophe.” Finding beauty in a universe born from destruction requires a unique optimism that our narrator seems to possess, despite how she describes herself.

Working on each of these levels and more, this motif helps build several themes throughout the novel. It can evoke interconnectedness, strong emotion, inevitable death, or creation from catastrophe, all of which shed light on Janina’s unique perspective on the world and Tokarczuk’s unique writing style. This was one of my favorite motifs of the novel, and I hope others find it as interesting as I did!

Janina and Animal Rights

From the beginning of the book Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, it is clear Janina is passionate about protecting life in all of its forms. She strongly believes the act of killing, especially killing animals, has been overly normalized and accepted in modern society. She struggles living in a town filled with hunters who view killing as sport and a tradition closely linked with their cultural and religious beliefs. 

Here in the United States, meat and consumers are far more separated. Most people will never go hunting or shoot an animal in their life. It is exceptionally easy to go to your local grocery store and pick up any type of meat neatly packaged up with little to no thought about the animal that was sacrificed. In many ways, this system is much worse. Most meat consumers are able to eat without thinking twice about animals, or the terrible industry that is factory farmed meat.

It’s easy to view Janina as crazy, and her actions aren’t condonable. The way she values animal lives is extremely different from the societal norm. But, while it is different, it isn’t necessarily wrong. She is correct in questioning this system and being confused why no one around her seems to care about what she views as mass slaughtering all around the world.

Meat and modern society is a difficult topic. The consumption of meat is entwined with the lives of many people and cultures. It is important to remember that when talking about this issue, as it brings up a lot of emotion. 

The Role Society Plays on a Person

In “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” written by Olga Tokarczuk writes a story about an older woman whos name is Janina and has these thoughts and opinions about certain aspects of the world others don’t really care for. As the story begins Janina and her neighbor Oddball find their other neighbor dead. She goes through her life being sort of poor ended living in a small town of northern Poland. She gets upset by certain actions that people in her life make and do. And when she tries to do something or take action she gets put down by the society she lives in.

Janina is an old woman who believes in Astrology and the rights for animals just as much as humans. As some hunters start to kill and shoot at animals this enrages Janina. Janina starts to get upset and tell the hunters that they aren’t allowed to do so in the town or by her property. The men who are hunters just brush her off and call her crazy because she cares about something small in their eyes. When Janina gets this she goes to the Police in the center of the city. As she gets there she talks to the commandant and asks what they can do to stop the killing of animals. But it is Poland and men are doing their hobby and making a big deal out of this is a pain and crazy to the men and the society she lives in. The Commandant says that he can’t really do anything and she starts to go on a rant and yelling at everyone and then the whole town and community starts to see how crazy she is. But it makes her want revenge and want to take action because she can’t get anyone to do anything that she thinks is so terrible. The society that Janina lives in makes her change her ways of doing things and start to take action because she is so positive that she is correct that she won’t let her society make her think otherwise.

“Hubert, not yet a saint, is a ne’er do-well and a wastrel”(237).

Hubert, the patron saint of hunting, originally had a passion for hunting rather than focusing his time on his faith. When his wife died, he decided to leave the royal court and turned to hunting. According to the legend, while Hubert was out hunting, he encountered a stag. However, this stag was unusual because it stood with a crucifix between its antlers. His interaction was what initially turned Hubert’s life toward God. Hubert is the patron saint of hunters, dogs, and archers.

While sitting in the church, Janina thought of this legend, explaining that Hubert, the patron saint of hunting, should be the saint of sin. She believes this because it is not right that Hubert gets the name: The patron saint of Hunters when he was such a fan of hunting, and he realizes his mistakes because of the stag. Essentially, she explains that by turning him into the patron saint of hunting, he is embodying something he is not.
Janina says,

Janina says that,


Therefore, Hubert has actually been created as the patron saint of sin. Oddly, Hubert is the patron saint for what he deemed a sin, and now he is the figure for that sin. Throughout the entire book, Janina has hated hunting and the mistreatment of animals, so after hearing that dogs don’t have souls in the church to now thinking back to a previous memory of this legend, I can sympathize with her feelings. However, I agree with most when they say she took it too far.

Exposing Societal Issues in the Film “Tootsie”

The 1982 film “Tootsie” directed by Sydney Pollack, starring Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange, is a comedy that touches on many different societal issues such as gender roles and stereotypes, workplace harassment, empathy and compassion, and the pursuit of fame and success. The movie follows a struggling actor named Michael Dorsey, who disguises himself as a woman named Dorothy Michaels to get a job on a soap opera. During this excursion, Michael is faced with the sad reality of how women are treated in American society, but more specifically the entertainment industry.

First off, “Tootsie” challenges traditional gender roles and stereotypes. Michael’s experience as a woman exposes him to the discrimination and sexism that women face in society, including being judged by their appearance and not their talents. The film also demonstrates how gender roles are enforced and how they limit individuals’ opportunities and potential. Another societal issue addressed in this film is workplace harassment. The prevalence of sexual harassment and how it is often dismissed or ignored is portrayed many times throughout the film. The character of Julie, played by Teri Garr, faces harassment from her boss and the issue is only resolved when Michael/Dorothy speaks up. 

“Tootsie” also highlights the importance of empathy and compassion. Through Michael’s experience as Dorothy, he learns to understand the struggles and challenges that women face in society. This helps him become a better person and gain a better understanding of how privileged he is as a white man. He uses the soap opera as a way to make statements regarding the issues previously mentioned and ends up becoming a major influence as Dorothy. He uses his power to make the world a better place, although people are not exactly happy when they discover that he is actually a man. The film also critiques the entertainment industry and the pursuit of fame and success. Michael’s desperation to land a job drives him to deceive others and himself, leading to complications and consequences that could have been avoided if the industry was a little more forgiving and considerate. 

Overall, “Tootsie” offers a humorous and thought-provoking commentary on various societal issues, encouraging the audience to reflect on their values and beliefs. 

Capitalization Importance

In “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” written by Olga Tokarczuk writes the story through the point of view of Janina. Janina is a very big activist and cares a lot about animals and nature. As Janina tells the story she capitalizes many words that do not need to be capitalized. For example; Night, Dog, Deer, Death, Punishment, Soul, and many more words. A discussion question we had in class was “Why do you think capitaliztion is used in this manner”. I think that it is used for many reasons. The first reason to put emphasis on these words because they are important to the story and in a way reveal what is going to happen. We find out that at the end of the book Janina killed all of those people because they were harming animals. The words that were capitalized were the names of the animals, emotions she felt, and what she is going to do. This words symbolized what was going to happen in a way. I also feel that for some of the words, not for all of the but a few that it emphasizes her values and what is important o her. Every name of an animal is capitalized and animals are something that are important and mean a lot to her.

Your Canvas is Empty? Paint With Pain, Lovely Artist, Paint Your Pain.

There is something to be said about those who demand respect but do not give it. Respect isn’t necessarily a transactional term, but in this specific scenario, it should be. Janina explicitly states that she does not want to be called Janina; it’s not clear what she wants to be called, just that Janina is not a good fit for her. She believes that names should be like epithets, an expression or representation of the person that they are designated to. However, she does not respect the personal agency of other people, assigning them “names” based on their most apparent characteristics. While this example is not apparently egregious, a closer look exposes Janina for who she really is, or rather, what she identifies as. Janina believes she is an Ubermensch, a person with extraordinary abilities and the authority to use them at their own discretion. The Ubermensch is not confined by laws, morality, or any karmic system, for they are above any external repercussions. The Ubermensch is decisive in mind, actions, and resolve; however, they are their greatest enemy. Punishment is not inflicted via an external source; the Ubermensch punishes themselves.

A great example is Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment, a character similar to Janina. Raskolnikov is an impoverished university student from St.Petersburg who believes himself to be, similarly to Janina, an Ubermensch. However, they neither explicitly say they are Ubermenschs; their actions speak otherwise. The Ubermensch should be known as a title or label for a phenomenon or repeated pattern in history; it is not the actual condition but a label for it. Janina doesn’t feel remorse for killing the hunters; she is relatively unfazed, only showing great emotion when confronted with her crime. Either due to thematic or intentional choices, Janina spends very little time thinking about the killers of her dogs. While it can be assumed she thinks about them a great deal, she has demonstrated the capacity to express normal emotions and behaviors when she murders those men. P.258 “I didn’t stop to think about it. I was sure I had killed him, and it seemed quite all right. I had no pangs of conscience. I only felt great relief.” P.261 “Once again, I felt nothing but relief.” Then, with the foxes, “I wish I could forget what I saw there. Weeping, I tried to open the cages and chase out the foxes.” She feels more emotions for the animals than she does for the men. This invites the reader to think about why? P.245 “But I don’t want us to reject them, as you put it. It’s just that I refuse to let anyone encourage children to do evil things or teach them hypocrisy. Glorifying killing is evil. It’s as simple as that.” This inconsistency brings to mind the concept of the Ubermensch. This idea of the Ubermensch is defined loosely in Crime and Punishment by the main character Raskolnikov. He says that an ordinary man has to live in submission and has no right to transgress the law because he is ordinary. On the contrary, extraordinary men have the right to commit any crime and transgress the law. They are extraordinary because they are men with the gift or talent to utter a New Word. Janina, in a way, punishes herself via her illness (which I believe is a cause of repressed emotions having a physical manifestation) as opposed to any punishment via usual avenues such as the police. She expresses her ability to transgress the law without repercussions by doing so. She also shows her free and complete agency over herself, even if that control is used to punish herself.

To Janina, moral and ethical hypocrisy matters are nothing in the face of a purpose. She lends herself to her ideas, divorcing herself from any accountability and guilt (supposedly). This is where Janina becomes more than just a person, but something resembling a thought experiment. Throughout the book, we, the reader, are exposed to many elements likely foreign to us, such as living entirely alone in the woods, complex astrology, and many different types of soliloquy and poetry. In the beginning, all of these concepts are foreign and divergent from what we are used to, and we look at them with wary, skeptical eyes. But as we live with Janina and follow her throughout 200+ pages, we begin to warm up to these ideas, not necessarily accepting them but just coming to understand them more. However, the end of the book and its subsequent reveal change the framing of this socialization.

Janina does not want to be called Janina; she explicitly states so. However, you will notice that nearly everyone who has finished the books calls her Janina. Whenever I wrote or talked about Drive Your Plow before the reveal, I referred to her as narrator. I respected her wishes as someone I was living with, sharing the same headspace, and learning about. I refer to her as Janina now because of what she has done and what she represents. No matter the ideological purity, righteousness, or moral piety, murder in such a way is not tolerable. There is something to be said about how the only alternative, the bureaucracy/police/law, was heavily biased against Janina. How this avenue for change had been tried and tested with no results, and how, if real change were to be made, it would take decades. Violence in pursuit of an otherwise unobtainable goal is a grey area and something one should not resort to. What is good and wrong is not defined by you but by others around you. Every action incurs a reaction, and humans respond to that act accordingly. We are pack animals by nature; we have a base instinct to be liked and to have more people in our “circle.” The reason for this is that in pre-historic times larger groups of humans were the ones to survive, and the same is true today. You alter your behavior constantly based on what others around you like or dislike; good and evil are not absolute truths. The moral grey encompasses much of our lives and is something we deal with all of the time; however, to each his one, everyone has a different perspective and views. Humans can be loosely defined as an intricately woven web of past experiences, cerebral processes, and imagination. As humans, we can never truly relate to one another, but we must try to sympathize with the plights of others. This is what Tokarczuk invites us to do. She invites us to think, weigh the options, and to consider the following:

  • Is violence for a cause justifiable?
  • Is violence justifiable at all?
  • What do you do when all options have been exhausted?
  • Are divergent ideologies acceptable?
  • How does one deal with repressed emotions?
  • How should one cope with their own biases?
  • Is a tortured artist a better artist?
  • Etc, etc.

But, the most important question presented by Tokarczuck to the reader is Janina. When viewed through the final few chapters, Janina is more of a concept than a person. She invites the reader to question the very fabric of people and whether their past experiences justify their actions. She makes the reader critical of the people she wrote about and the concepts they represent.

Motif of Animals

“Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” by Olga Tokarczuk is a complex novel with many themes and motifs, including the motif of animals. The protagonist, Janina Duszejko, is a retired engineer who lives in a remote village in Poland, where she becomes obsessed with the deaths of several hunters. Throughout the novel, animals play an important role as they are seen as both victims and symbols.

One of the central motifs of the novel is the relationship between humans and animals. Janina is a vegetarian who loves animals and believes that they have souls and deserve respect. She is also deeply critical of hunting and the mistreatment of animals. Her views are contrasted with those of the hunters in the novel, who see animals as nothing more than targets and trophies.

The animals in the novel are also symbolic. Janina sees them as messengers, and they often appear to her in dreams and visions. For example, the deer that appears in her dreams represents freedom and escape from the constraints of human society. Similarly, the hare that she finds dead in her yard represents vulnerability and the cycle of life and death.

Through the lens of the animal world, the novel questions the value systems of human society and explores the consequences of our actions on the natural world.

Why is it that Janina keeps sending letters to the police, despite their uncooperative past?

Despite the police’s uncooperative past, Janina continues to send letters to them because she feels a strong sense of moral responsibility to speak out against what she perceives as injustice. She is determined to do everything in her power to protect the animals and the environment, and she sees reporting these incidents to the police as her duty.

Additionally, Janina is a character who is driven by her values, and she is not easily discouraged by the oppositions. She sees her actions as necessary, regardless of whether or not others agree with her. She continues to send letters to the police, even when she knows that they are unlikely to take action. Janina’s persistent letter-writing is a reflection of her strong moral convictions and her determination to fight for what she believes in, despite the obstacles in her path.

Animal Rights in “Drive your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead”

In Olga Tokarczuk’s novel, Drive your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, the main character Janina has a special connection with animals that she doesn’t have with people. Throughout the book, the names of animals are capitalized, such as Fox, Deer, Dog, etc. Although they are improper nouns. Also, Janina isn’t able to form connections with people the way that she is able to connect with animals and care for them. She dislikes most humans, but goes as far as murder when it comes to animals. This is very unique because most people don’t even think about things like veganism or using cruelty free products in their day to day lives, but Janina is extreme when it comes to animals. My question is, is Janina truly crazy or do our societal norms dramatize her actions regarding her care of animals? Since animals are seen as less than in our society, many would view Janina’s murders as unjust because humans and animals aren’t equal, so a human shouldn’t be killed for an animal. But looking from Janina’s perspective, she sees animals as equal to or better than humans, so killing people for an animal would make sense for her. It is just like someone feeling okay defending a friend or family member who got murdered, by murdering their killer.

The Deadly Pebble

The final story that Janina writes do Dizzy is incredibly important and frames many parts of the book previous to it. This short fable may seem insignificant but it is, in fact, the opposite. The story tells a tale about believing something to be true so strongly that it becomes the truth. This is what Janina does with many things in her life. For one Janina believes she knows the date of her death, similar to the monk. To Jjnaina it is a comforting thought, she knows when to be scared of death and when to live her life without the fear of dying. It is possible that with this story she is telling Dizzy, as well as the reader, that she hasn’t necessarily found her death date but instead decided on it. It also frames Janina’s actions, particularly the murderous ones. Janina had believed so heavily that she was being used by the animals as a tool for justice and because of that, she was able to murder without remorse. The monk in the story did not have to die, similar to how the commandant, Innerd, the president, and the priest did not have to die, but he believed so heavily that it was necessary so he made it happen. This train of thought is parallel to how Janina views her murders. To her they were necessary, written in the stars, and by default, she had to carry them out. 

“A medieval monk and Astrologer – in the days before Saint Augustine forbade the reading of the future from the stars-foresaw his own death in his Horoscope. He was to die from the bow of a stone that would fall on his head. From then on he always wore a metal cao beneath his monk’s hood. Until one Good Friday, he took it off along with the hood, more for great of drawing attention to himself in church than for love of God. Just then a tiny pebble fell on his bare head, giving him a superficial scratch. But the monk was sure the prediction had come true, so he put all his affairs in order, and a month later he died”(274A medieval monk and Astrologer – in the days before Saint Augustine forbade the reading of the future from the stars-foresaw his own death in his Horoscope. He was to die from the bow of a stone that would fall on his head. From then on he always wore a metal cao beneath his monk’s hood. Until one Good Friday, he took it off along with the hood, more for great of drawing attention to himself in church than for love of God. Just then a tiny pebble fell on his bare head, giving him a superficial scratch. But the monk was sure the prediction had come true, so he put all his affairs in order, and a month later he died”(274)