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.

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.

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.

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.