Reflecting on Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Due to the fact that I am completing this blogging assignment very late, I have been able to reflect on the novel Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead in a way I wasn’t able to during the unit in class. Overall I found the book very compelling to read, mainly attributed to the writing style of Olga Tokarczuk.

The whole story is narrated by the main character Janina who lives in a remote mountain village in Poland. Janina is passionate about astrology and nature, and she believes that animals have souls and should be treated with respect. Only having one point of view throughout the whole novel creates an interesting plot. Janina is able to tell readers exactly what she wants them to know and leave details out that may not make her character look good. That is why throughout the whole book Janina portrays herself as being pure and innocent, it isn’t until the last couple of chapters when it is revealed that Janina is actually the villain. Tokarcuk’s writing style creates tension and suspense that echoes within the pages of the book.

In addition, Tokarczuk uses random capitalization to bring the reader’s attention to different words and or situations. I thought it was a very creative way to emphasize and foreshadow events in the novel. From the beginning, capitalized words had extra meaning to the story. For example, the word Ailments is improperly capitalized on page one. In turn, foreshadowing Janina’s ailments which become a motif throughout the book. and play a big role in the plot along with understanding Janina as a character.

Overall the way Tokarczuk write her book made me appriiate the story more!

Antagonist/Protagonist Motifs and Plot Twists

Olga Tokarczuk’s use of foiling in Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead gives the story a powerful twist. The foils are Janina and the law enforcement that are present in the novel. Throughout the novel, Janina is at odds with law enforcement, whether that be for her being a suspect in a crime, or for her reports on animal cruelty.

In the majority of the novel, the reader is pushed to interpret that Janina, despite her eccentricities, is generally a moral person. The depiction of her caring about animals portrays Janina as a woman with a caring heart. However, when Janina goes to the police about animal cruelty that she notes, she is shut down and demeaned. The law enforcement doesn’t seem like they actually care about upholding the law; instead, they are portrayed as a lazy and insensitive group of people who don’t take women very seriously, seeing how they called Janina a old hag. The law enforcement are then portrayed as antagonists, while Janina contrasts them as somewhat of a protagonist.

Because law enforcement is portrayed in a negative light, the reader is pushed to sympathize with Janina, who had multiple negative encounters with the police. The sympathy that the reader is directed to give Janina backfires when Janina is revealed as the killer at the very end of the book. With the foil of Janina and law enforcement and also with Janina being portrayed as more of the protagonist, the ending leaves the reader with a sense of betrayal towards Janina. So, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is an example of a plot twist done right.

The Symbolic Meaning of the Forest in “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead”

Olga Tokarczuk’s novel “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead,” presents the forest as a rich and multi-layered symbol that adds depth and complexity to the story. The forest represents various themes and ideas throughout the novel and invites readers to interpret its meaning in different ways. First, the forest is a symbol of untamed nature, representing wild and primal forces beyond the control of man. It contains a sense of mystery and unpredictability as the characters navigate its depths, facing dangers and uncertainties. Second, the forest can be seen as a metaphor for the unknown aspects of life. Just as the characters enter the forest to face unknown dangers, they also face unknown and uncertain aspects of their lives. The forest becomes a space where characters struggle with existential questions, question reality, morality and human existence. Third, the forest acts as a symbolic space of change and renewal. It becomes a place where characters grow and change. The dense vegetation and hidden paths of the forest reflect the complexity of the inner lives of the characters as they face their fears, desires and vulnerabilities. In addition, the forest can be interpreted as a symbol of escape or a place to escape. In the novel, some characters seek solace in the forest from the challenges and limitations of a retreating society. The forest becomes a sanctuary where the characters can connect with nature and experience a sense of freedom and liberation. Furthermore, the forest can be seen as a representation of the blurred boundaries between reality and fantasy. As the characters navigate the labyrinthine paths of the forest, their perception and reality become distorted, blurring the lines between the real and the imagined. Finally, the forest also represents solitude and isolation. It becomes a space where the characters can be alone with their thoughts, reflect on their lives, and grapple with their mortality. In conclusion, “Drive Your Plow Over Dead Bones” the forest acts as a multifaceted symbol that embodies various themes including untamed natural forces, unknown aspects of life, change and renewal, escapism, obscurity of reality and fantasy and loneliness. Its symbolic meaning adds depth and complexity to the novel’s narrative and invites readers to explore and interpret its meaning in their own unique way.

Ecofeminism in Books: Ideology from Janina

Ecofeminism began in the 1970s with the rise of movements such as the Chipko Andolan movement, where a group of women led a forest conservation campaign to stop the rapid deforestation that was happening in India. In Kenya, the Greenbelt Movement was an indigenous grassroots organization that empowered women through the planting of trees.

This philosophical/political movement started as a way to fight against patriarchy and capitalism, combining ideas from feminist and environmental movements. Both women and nature can both be considered irrational, which is opposite to men, who are often viewed as more logical. This leads to the social norm that men should be in control. Specifically in the lens of ecofeminism, this means that capitalism places value on productivity, even when it comes at the cost of destruction to the environment or the exploitation of women. Many environmental issues are caused by traits considered more masculine, such as aggression (hunting). Ecofeminism emphasizes the importance of appreciating what the Earth gives to humans and recognizing all living things as valuable. However, ecofeminism lost popularity in the 80s and 90s as people started critiquing the movement for being essentialist and reinforcing the idea that women can only be mothers and caregivers.

In Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, Janina exemplifies ecofeminism through fighting back against hunters, who are usually men, and the people in authority positions who allow animals to be killed. As an old woman who cares about animals in a way that is not the social norm in Polish society, she is often not taken seriously, with men dismissing her as crazy. Janina goes as far as to kill the men who are responsible for causing harm to animals, and in larger part, nature. Although her actions are not always justified and Janina’s resistance is much more violent than the typically peaceful ecofeminism movements of the 70s, the foundation is the same. 

One example of this is when Janina attempts to stop a hunting group. She confronts the men, yelling at them that they have “no right to shoot living creatures.” One of them tries to calm her down, “‘It’s all right, please go home. We’re just shooting pheasants,’ Mustachio reassured me, as if he didn’t understand my protest. The other man added in a sugary tone: ‘Don’t argue with her, she’s crazy” (63). In this instance, they are holding power over both Janina, therefore women in general, and the pheasants, more widely nature. Janina embodies ecofeminist principles here, standing up for herself and nature together. This theme is continued throughout the book, as it seems no one sees the value in animal life as much as Janina does. She constantly uses beautiful language to describe the animals and capitalizes their names, demonstrating how she sees them on the same level, if not better than humans. On the other hand, she often uses straightforward, sometimes ugly language to describe the men she is fighting against. 

The reason she commits murder is not explicitly stated in the book, leaving the reader to wonder why she took such extreme actions. Perhaps she believes that she is getting revenge for the animals, who cannot do so on their own. Maybe she thinks she has been chosen to be their savior. What can universally be taken away from the book, however, is a new perspective on how the oppression of women and of nature are interconnected. It can be useful to view all forms of marginalization in this way, as in intersectionality. Changing one power dynamic can help change another.

Janina and the Interconnection of Nature

“Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” by Olga Tokarczuk explores the human relationship with nature in a unique way through the point of view of Janina.

Janina considers how people and nature interact throughout the book. She feels that nature should be respected and understood rather than conquered or controlled. She believes that everything in the world is interlinked and a part of a larger whole. Having a strong connection to nature, she views it as a source of knowledge and inspiration. She has a deep appreciation and spiritual bond with the natural world. Her eyes allow readers to understand how nature can have much beauty and significance.

The effects of human behavior on the natural environment are also discussed in the book, emphasizing the necessity to get back in touch with nature and understand how connected all living things are. Nature plays a significant role in the setting of the book, being Janina’s inspiration and teacher, serving as a crucial tool for seeing the negative effects of humanity on the environment.

Janina thinks that because of our ignorance and lack of connection to the natural world, we have been destroying the systems around us. According to her, human beings’ alienation from nature is the root cause of both the exploitation of animals and the destruction of their natural habitats. The book challenges us to think about our place in the natural world and to reconsider how we interact with it through her eyes.

The Meaning of Janina Duszejko

“...he who suffers sees the back of God…Maybe it means that he who suffers has special access to God, by a side door, he is blessed, he embraces some sort of truth which without suffering would be hard to comprehend. So in a way, the only person who’s healthy is one who suffers, however strange it might sound. I think that would be in harmony with the rest.” - pg. 113, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Religion is a highly difficult and complex topic to cover and has been for ages. This is true in Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, so I will do my best to be as objective and true to the text as possible. Even still, religion and faith are personal things, and your interpretation is your interpretation, and will probably differ from mine. Either way, we can begin. 

Janina is shown quite quickly to be an astrologer, and devoted to her practice. She is also shown to not adhere to any labels regarding her faith and doesn’t seem to associate with any organized religion. Her disdain for organized religion parallels William Blake’s views, and with him being a key figure in Janina’s philosophy, it makes sense. William Blake considered himself a Christian but never joined any organized sect, while Janina doesn’t seem to associate with Christianity. Blake was greatly influenced by the Swiss theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, who was also mentioned in the book. 

Janina has a few general principles, but primarily she values the near equality of animal and human life. At certain points in the text she even seems to regard animals as more pure or divine creatures than humans. This divinity she also applies to nature in general. I interpreted her views as being consistent within Christianity and with other religions, but she often conflicts with the primarily Catholic population of where she lives. 

She’s regarded as an outsider and interacts with very few people, most of whom are her friends. Most of those outside this close circle of trusted people regard her as just a crazy old woman, they reduce her to very little, which isolates her from the rest of the world, but it also lets her get away with more eccentric behavior, leading up to her actions which are revealed at the end of the book. Her friends see her as an equal and tend to have respect for her ideas, they also tend to be outsiders or wanderers themselves. She clearly opposes the majority of what general society represents, and general society rejects her in turn. It’s not exactly a healthy way to live, but she chooses to stick to her morals, which is certainly respectable.

Now this is all true of Janina the character, but what is the reader meant to take from this? Well, I believe the book is intended to make us empathize more with social outcasts, especially people regarded as just eccentric old ladies. The only thing preventing this from being a complete interpretation is the dramatic ending of the book. If you’d like to not have it spoiled, you can skip the rest of this section. I believe the ending, rather than taking away from this meaning actually contributes to it. It shows how those who are outcast and looked down upon are likely to revolt or push back against society in some meaningful way, it may be construed in their minds as the moral thing, as in Janina’s case, though this could also be her system of belief at play as well. Either way, Janina is a peculiar but sympathetic character, who has an ironclad set of beliefs and sticks to them, she has empathy for nature, animals, and people who are similarly distanced from society, and even though we would probably regard her actions as entirely immoral, from her standpoint, it may have seemed like the only option.

Why Her and Not them?

Throughout the lot of Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead while following Janina we see the struggles of her mental health at the forefront of the story. As we join her on her journey through finding the person responsible for the murders present throughout the town as a reader I felt progressively more uncomfortable of her narration, describing pieces of her life, hallucinations, realizations, opinions and overall inner monologue. However, after finding out the overall twist of the story, I wondered to myself what drove my own thoughts of Janina as a character towards being someone that was solely crazy or out of her own mind. When I reflected upon these thoughts further I realized some of the similarities how characters I adore in more modern media reflect Janina’s situation in a much more extreme light, and while I find entertainment and joy from following their stories, I seem to hold disdain towards Janina’s.

Take characters such as John Wick, Swamp Thing, or Moon Knight for example. Just last weekend I watched the final chapter of the bloodthirsty mercenary played by Keanu Reeves continue his rampage for another three hours, mercilessly killing multiple people throughout the film, from the rampage sparked over criminals killing his dog. In my free time I read comics where the Swamp Thing will leave those who interfere with nature dead in the swamps of Louisiana. Moon Knight, is a character from Marvel Comics who functions as a superhero with BPD, serving as a silent killer in the streets of New York to insight the vengeance of the Egyptian god Khonshu. While each one of these characters perfectly embody some of Janina’s own ordeals throughout Drive Your Plow, i.e extreme protection of nature, struggles with mental health, and desire to punish those who oppose her with death, I still feel like the readers perception her remains to be more discouraging of her as a character than encouraging of her actions and thoughts throughout the story, but why? After mulling more on this idea of “why?” more is truly because I believe this audience hypocrisy stems from Tokarczuk establishing Janina as a character to be disliked i order to convey the greater theme of women in the story being ostracized and not being taken seriously on their thoughts or emotions. Throughout the novel, we see many times where Janina is ignored in her pleas to protect animals, and often called crazy for how she walks life primarily because of the fact that she’s a woman, and by being able to instill this undertone of discomfort or contempt of Janina in the audience, Tokarczuk is able to manipulate our minds to convey the overall grip misogyny has on our opinion of a women vs our idolization of men that we see in the media.

The Nature of Animals and Janina

We all know that Janina loves animals. Time and time again, Janina demonstrates her undying commitment to the animals around her in her staunch opposition to any form of hunting. The central principle of Janina’s beliefs is that “animals’ ‘ and “people” should just be considered as equals. She claims that her motivations are primarily driven by this fact. This is where I think the issues begin, because here, Janina is grossly oversimplifying nature and the science that goes with it. Essentially trying to equate animals with humans, while perhaps coming from a morally good standpoint, is often ignorant of the biology of said animals, especially their ecological and evolutionary functions. This is my breakdown of Janina’s absolutist viewpoints, and an expansion on how “animals” and “people” ought to be treated, especially around the discussion of hunting, which ultimately drives much of Janina’s actions in the story. 

First off, I feel like it should be defined what an “animal” is. An animal is any member of the kingdom animalia which consists of 1-2 MILLION species. The animal kingdom is broken down into 31-35 phylums (the taxonomical categorization below kingdom), one of which is the chordates, better known as vertebrates. The vertebrates are what comes to many peoples’ minds (like Janina’s) when they think of animals. They include the fish, reptiles (which include birds), amphibians, and mammals, among others, including us, of course. These life forms, while very diverse, only actually make up about 5% of all animal species. The rest is made up of other phylums like arthropods (insects, arachnids, crustaceans), Cnidarians (corals, jellyfish), Mollusks (snails, squid), and many more. The point of these technicalities is to point out that the animal kingdom is very diverse. Vertebrates evolved over 500 million years ago, and so our last common ancestor with 90% of the animal kingdom was alive over half a billion years ago. This is significant because it signifies just how different many animals are from one another. If we want to think about “animals”, we should first recognize just how much of a blanket statement “animals” is. Every species, forget individuals within a species, is uniquely tuned to a different natural environment and evolutionary path which has shaped their individual characteristics. For example, the cnidarians, which include jellyfish and corals, or the poriferans, which are the sponges, are so distantly related to us that they do not have a central nervous system (brain), and as far as modern science can tell us, cannot feel pain. Something we need to understand is that critical thinking, consciousness, pain, sadness, etc. are not universal things. These things are only the results of our evolution, which has favored such traits. They are not necessary to reproduce, and so they do not necessarily exist in all or even most life forms. Trying to imagine or characterize what an “animal” feels or wants is so incredibly beyond our abilities due to evolution. Evolution, not divine power of any form is directly responsible for our senses, feelings, and emotions, better phrased as our perception of reality. Nothing is sacred to evolution, and no one trait is guaranteed to be consistent throughout different species of life.

This is why anthropomorphizing, or characterizing animals through a human lens, can be problematic. Simply put, the physiology and evolution of the vast majority of animals is so different from our own, that it is ignorant to assume that as a human, you can somehow understand them. As an example, many people feed ducks bread at parks. I have no doubt that basically everyone who does this has good intentions; people see wild birds and assume they must be hungry, so they give them some bread, something that humans understand can be used to alleviate hunger. In reality, feeding wild birds bread is almost always harmful and can lead to serious issues for said birds. White bread has little nutrition for birds, and it often just leaves them feeling full, preventing them from consuming important proteins and fats from natural food sources. (this is why actual bird mixes or seeds are better, because they better replicate the actual protein/fat rich diet that birds need to survive in the wild). People feed birds bread out of kindness, but unfortunately, it shows a general lack of awareness of wild animals and their environments; they have applied their human standards of livelihood to another species. Animals don’t just pop into existence to be a part of your life or share your human perceptions, they are complex organisms that are the result of the same incredibly varied evolutionary process that produced people. However, Janina tends to only focus on the animals in her life (she also clearly values her dogs over other animals despite claiming to view them equally), and repeatedly anthropomorphizes them to the point that she feels she can literally speak with them.

The issue with Janina is that she feels she is somehow special and can magically understand the animals or even act as their messenger. Worse, she justifies her views in astrology and flatly says that she doesn’t believe evolution is real. While she seems to be non-religious, Janina’s views on the existence of animals is closer to a traditional, religious perspective than an evolutionary, science-based one. She sees animals as sacred entities that exist to bring her tranquility or inspiration, and is clearly very biased towards the vertebrates, or just the ones who appear fuzzy and cuddly, a.k.a the ones that are the most “human” and deserving of care. This is very clear in how she cares for her dogs’ deaths more than the other animals in Bigfoot’s photo, or how she hasn’t even considered the natural history of insects (representatives of ~70% of earth’s animals) until Boris shows up. It’s also unclear if Janina has really thought or worried about the animals that live outside of her area. Most importantly though, just like in some traditional religious views, Janina doesn’t believe in or consider how animals are part of a broader evolutionary and ecological biology. 

I should be clear that I think a lot of Janina’s thinking comes from the right place. While I believe it is difficult to insert human judgment into the most intimate areas of animal life, humans today have an obligation to stewardship and environmental responsibility. Poaching is absolutely reprehensible and immoral, as well as any extensive exploitation of natural resources. I’ll clarify here that by “poaching”, in this case, I mean any hunting that is not used within reasonable purpose (food, resources, or regulation). For the sake of this blog post, I’ll lump illegal hunting and unethical/wasteful (but legal) trophy-type hunting in the same term of poaching. Hunting has been behind the severe decline or outright extinction of many species and can be an incredibly destructive force. I think it is understandable how in a hunter/poacher-dominated society, Janina becomes so outraged. In fact, many of the hunters in Janina’s area are in fact poachers who deserve to be charged as criminals. However, Janina is an absolutist who equates animals as the same as humans, and she doesn’t distinguish between hunting and poaching. In addition, Janina doesn’t clarify how, if all animals are equal, it is justifiable that a wild animal kills another animal for food. In my opinion, humans using our evolutionary “advantages” (grasping hands and a large brain) to construct tools (blinds, guns, etc) to hunt for food is not fundamentally different from a tiger using its evolutionary “advantages” (camouflage, powerful bite, claws) to hunt for food. Humans aren’t even the only animals that use tools to hunt (sea otters, chimpanzees, among others I’m sure). This perspective requires the understanding of our own evolution (something Janina doesn’t believe in), as omnivorous apes who “traded” a lot of our physical adaptations for a larger brain (which, before modern times, was only possible to maintain due to at least some meat in the diet). We did and continue to be active parts of the world’s ecology, and our ancestors created tools to compete with other predators that had more physical “advantages”. Today, if a hunter uses those same “advantages” to hunt, I don’t think that’s objectively flawed, as long as it is done with a real purpose and with real responsibility in mind.

Hunting can be done sustainably, and while the ethics can be debated, I think people like Janina don’t realize the impact it can have for “good” things. For example, a recent Cornell Lab of Ornithology study found that wild bird populations in North America have declined by almost 3 billion birds since 1970. Nearly every single bird family has seen losses, some of them very significant and a major cause of concern for many reasons. One of the only groups that have not seen declines, and has actually increased, (some from endangered statuses) is the waterfowl; the swans, geese, and ducks. Now every species’ conservation ecology is different, but by and large, these birds rely on marsh and wetland habitats across the United States, especially in the Midwest and great plains. One of the biggest reasons that this family has seen population gains is the conservation work of hunters in groups such as Ducks Unlimited, a hunter-conservation group that sponsors and funds many projects associated with the management, conservation, and restoration of waterfowl habitats, as well as the hunters that pay for hunting permits and taxes on hunting gear that go towards conservation. Some of our most important migratory checkpoints for birds, our National Wildlife Refuges, were established at least partially for certain amounts of hunting (within scientifically researched and regulated guidelines). Wildlife refuges don’t just benefit game birds, either. Hunters want to be able to visit pristine, native habitats and be able to harvest pristine, native birds year after year, so they routinely put money towards permits, duck stamps, and habitat restoration that keeps these habitats and their inhabitants in pristine form. For better or for worse, hunters are some of the most active investors in these areas, and without the economic contributions that hunters make, many areas would probably not have the same level of funding and infrastructure for protecting North America’s migrating and breeding waterfowl populations. In addition to having brought back many “game species”, some from local extirpation, these refuges play a critical role in the conservation of our species whether it be plant, animal, or fungus, and resources as well as the health of the greater ecosystem and earth as a whole (not to mention they’re wonderful places to visit and serve as a haven for outdoor recreationists well beyond hunters).

 I think it is a common misconception that all hunters are ignorant of nature and just want to shoot things. Of course, there are offenders, and as I said above, poaching/immoral hunting is completely and utterly immoral; hunting should be taken seriously and with serious responsibility, and there are definitely further discussions to be had at where we draw the exact line between “ethical” and “unethical” hunting. If you want to go out and shoot something, it must be done responsibly, i.e. respecting limits, no lead bullets, no hunting out of season, respecting science-based guidelines, etc (additionally, offenses/exploitations of natural resources should be dealt with seriously). In the 21st century, it is a privilege, not an intrinsic right to be able to utilize your natural resources, and you MUST do so in a responsible way.

However, the reality is that many hunters actually are very knowledgeable when it comes to nature, and many of them have a deep respect and connection to the environment. I am sure that many hunters spend a lot more time and put more money towards actual conservation than many of the people who criticize them for being “unsustainable” or “unethical”. Personally, I’ve never hunted, and I would never want to, because I do find it personally disagreeable, destructive, and even distasteful, finding it to be much more enjoyable, sustainable, and ethical to “shoot” birds through a camera. I personally will tend to instinctively lean towards the non-hunting side almost every time. I am also constantly aware of how damaging and dangerous hunting can be. I’ll be clear here that I don’t think it’s easy to characterize hunting as a good or bad thing because it is incredibly circumstantial, and in some contexts, it can be “ethical”, while in others, it is indescribably evil (of course, not all hunting in America is just waterfowl, and some hunting initiatives are more conservation-based or informed than others). That being said, hunters love their craft, and most importantly, they put a lot of money behind it. Unless harsh critics of hunters can supply the billions of dollars that they contribute to US agencies for conservation annually, I think this situation has to be read with nuance. The conservation picture is often complex and requires compromises. While you or I (or Janina) may find hunting disagreeable, there is no debating the incredible conservation work that hunters have done for North America’s waterfowl. While it may be uncomfortable, seeing hunters more eye to eye on conservation is critical for continuing to maintain conservation efforts. We can do a lot more for the greater conservation of nature and humanity if we put aside some of our most idealistic aspirations in favor of a solution that still creates objectively and overwhelmingly positive results. We may not always be able to compromise, but this is a case where it should and can be done, and Janina’s apparent lack to do so can potentially threaten the health of entire ecosystems. 

Janina’s perspective also fails to address hunting in terms of population regulation. Under her view, all animals ought to be treated as humans, and so they cannot be killed, or else you should be framed as a murderer. Once again, Janina is ignorant of actual ecological science. In many parts of the world, certain species threaten the entire stability of a particular ecosystem, and so they are culled by hunting. Now, in the vast majority of these cases, the reasons species are out of control is directly because of people. We could spend an eternity lamenting humanity and the anthropocentric, ignorant, or stupid reasons that invasives were introduced or enabled in the first place (it’s pretty bad). The reality though, is that the past is the past, and all we can do today is stop that problem from getting worse. A good example is the invasive Burmese Python in the Florida Everglades. Today, these pythons are a HUGE issue in the Everglades, and they are literally choking out many native species and threatening the health of one of our most important ecological areas. They reproduce rapidly, and prey on anything from songbirds to alligators. While they will probably never be extirpated, there are still efforts to contain them, including many hunting initiatives. Some of these snakes are made into actual products that can be used by people, too. Some people today are doing their best to try to limit the rapid damage that this species has wrought. Janina would argue that there are more ethical ways to stop a species like this, and I would agree. However, those methods are less accessible and/or more expensive than hunting, and for better or for worse, the government can more easily recruit masses of volunteers with shotguns than masses of biological scientists that can more “ethically” remove the snakes via other methods, like rolling out a whole plan to sterilize the entire snake population, for example (which is also probably insanely difficult and also arguably unethical). People shouldn’t be encouraged to stand by as pythons continue to wreak havoc, hoping for a more “ethical” solution. I think more ethical solutions should continue to be used and pursued wherever they can be, but in the meantime, hunting shouldn’t just stop. This problem is happening right now, and it will continue to get worse and degrade the livelihoods of hundreds of wild species and local communities if people settle exclusively for lesser, more “ethical” methods. In a perfect world, yes, humans would never have made a terrible mistake in the first place, and hunting would not be necessary. Hopefully, that day is on the way. However, that is not the case right now, and we cannot put the sanctity of lives of pythons ahead of ecological balance and preventing collapse. The pythons are a good example of how we do live in an imperfect world requiring imperfect solutions; there is no “ethical” solution to a problem like this, as life will be “harmed” either way. Janina would argue that the snakes should absolutely not be killed whatsoever, but if we look at the situation from an ecologically informed perspective, we can see there is clearly a “lesser of evils” solution. In invasive species cases, imperfect solutions are better than nothing at all.

In conclusion, Janina’s beliefs are arguably quite noble. However, they are horribly misplaced and ignorant of science. Janina’s beliefs have the potential to be incredibly destructive because in her ignorance of evolution and ecology or belief in the human sacredness of wild animals, she represents the person to oppose imperfect solutions to greater ecological problems. She also shows why an education in proper biological science is important, because without a nuanced and complex understanding of life on earth, people like Janina will resort to understanding nature through an EXCLUSIVELY spiritual/emotional lens. I personally understand the desire to want to love wild animals like friends, and this is fine as long as it is not practiced to Janina’s absolutism. We have to be able to see past an individual animal life towards the greater health of a sustainable world. On a scientific level, if you really care about animals and nature, you have to be prepared to make difficult compromises. The fact that you may see imperfect solutions as difficult and painful but perhaps necessary shouldn’t torture you to Janina’s violent extent, but re-affirm to you that you do genuinely care about the natural world and striving towards creating a more ethical one.

If we should take away anything from Janina’s views on animals, it ought to be that we should definitely not treat animals as “equals” to people, whether it be because of the umbrella term that “animals” is, or the nuances of hunting. We should only be treating other humans as humans. As humans, we have been rightly trained to strive to treat other HUMANS equally, regardless of race, gender, orientation, etc. However, it is a mistake to try to apply this egalitarianism to wild animals, other entirely different SPECIES, separated by millions of years of evolution and countless aspects of physiology and ecology. This doesn’t mean we should view animals as lesser or greater than humans, either. Hunting an animal within ethical boundaries doesn’t have to mean that you see them as “lesser”. Hunting and consumption of animals is a part of many peoples’ heritages and in some cases, may be the best source of certain nutrients (I think the bigger and more objective issue with meat consumption today is the environmental/climate change impact, as we discussed in class). Hunting, if done for an actual purpose (food or resources), or if informed by science, does not mean that we detract from an animal’s inherent value. On a mature level, it reflects our awareness of a living, ecologically connected world (which we’re a part of) that is bigger than one individual. On Janina’s level, it reflects everything wrong and fundamentally evil about existence and is an excuse for brutal violence. How we treat wild animals is a sort of fluid gray space that doesn’t necessarily have concrete borders. It’s ok to acknowledge that we don’t know everything about animals and that we can’t hope to understand all of them, much less create some universal guideline towards their treatment. It’s ok to be uncertain and constantly be asking questions too. What we can say is that we should not simply treat them how we would treat other humans. We can also say that while every animal is different, they do deserve a certain level of deep respect, and that responsible, informed hunting does not HAVE to objectively violate that respect, (although it certainly can), however twisted it may or may not seem at times. Striving to better actively understand the complex relationships between humans and other animals and the nature of hunting (or the lack of it) through a nuanced lens should hopefully make us better and happier stewards than Janina. 

If Janina Were a Man

Historically women’s contributions to society, conversation, and the workplace are much less appreciated than men’s. Women are taken much less seriously and as a result, are also compensated on a lower scale; specifically regarding women of color, these disparities are heightened. Throughout Drive Your Plow Janina attempted to get credit, her voice heard, and her theories taken seriously during the hunt for the party responsible for the murders. 

Janina functions to such a large degree outside of the parameters of a patriarchal society many of her rational observations concerning detective work are disregarded. If Janina were cast as a man I strongly believe that her ideas, though not all given the unrealistic nature of some, would be given more consideration. Moreover, many of her seemingly “manic” or “unreasonable” behaviors would seem strategic and even effective in the investigation of the killings. I think Taylor Swift does a great job depicting these vocabulary differences in the following clip.

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, 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.