One of the things I started to notice while reading The Year of the Flood was all of these interesting “Saints” we see featured, some of whom were already familiar to me (Farley Mowat, anyone? and Terry Fox, of course), but many of whom I had never heard of. As I am sure the inclusion of these figures adds something to the content of this novel, I decided to take this opportunity to read a little about a couple of them and to see how they relate to the Gardener culture and the themes of this novel.
Dian Fossey working with a gorilla
Adam One gives a sermon in year twenty-four in which he praises “Saint Dian Fossey”, a gorilla researcher who lived among gorillas and helped to debunk the myth that gorillas are “violent brutes”. At first glance, it’s easy to see how this figure fits in with the gardener image. Dian Fossey was also a promoter of gorilla conservation, and a particularly controversial one because she preferred methods of direct action for dealing with poachers than the more popular technique of more long-term awareness-promotion. Adam One refers to “malicious rumours” having been spread about her during her lifetime and after it- from what I’ve read, I think he is referring to reports that Fossey had the native people of Rwanda who tried to poach the gorillas captured and tortured. This part does not fit in as well with the Gardener narrative, so Adam One rejects it, showing evidence that the Gardeners are willing to select narratives that best fit their ideals and teach those as truths. You can read more about Dian Fossey here (content warning: violence, death).
Book cover of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring
Rachel Carson, mentioned in Adam One’s Year twenty-five sermon, wrote a book called “Silent Spring” highlighting a dramatic population decline in birds in the US due to a pesticide called DDT. Her book brought a lot of attention to this issue and moved many people to action, including the creators of what is now one of the biggest non-profits in the world, the Environmental Defense Fund. She models the gardener’s values particularly well, using peaceful techniques to promote animal rights and successfully restore bird populations (bald eagle populations have had a twenty-fold population increase in the past 40 years, in great part due to her work!). You can read more about Rachel Carson here.
What did you think of Atwood’s choice to make all of her Saints real people? Were there any other names you recognized? Let me know in the comment section J