In Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, it is very clear that the Gardeners have a close relationship with nature. I found it very easy to understand their strong desire to preserve the environment and that in order to do so they don’t eat meat and they don’t throw anything away. However, I realized that this was only the surface of their closeness. If they want to follow all the rules established in the group, the Gardeners actually have to rely on nature to fulfill some of their emotional needs.
When trying to deal with Lucerne’s whining, Toby states that “[t]he Gardeners [are] expected to avoid any broadcasting of their personal problems: foisting your mental junk on others was frowned upon” (113). I can’t help but wonder, if they can’t share their challenges with other human beings, then who can they share them with? Well, it seems as though bees are good listeners!
The first thing Pilar teaches Toby about bees is that “[you] can always tell the bees your troubles” (99). This shows that although they can’t respond with words to show their support, these small creatures are actually there to listen to what the Gardeners feel the need to share. The bees adopt a role that the Gardeners are expected to avoid, which gives them a certain importance in regards to the individuals’ well-being. They allow them to open up and share their most deep and personal thoughts, which is something that is significantly positive. The bees do not have the capacity to judge or to criticize, so in the end talking to them might be a better deal than talking to other Gardeners, who can easily convey their own opinions on matters.
I soon started to wonder, if they truly respect the rule of not sharing their issues with others, then how can the Gardeners develop relationships amongst themselves that are closer than the ones they have with nature? That must be a difficult thing to accomplish since most relationships between humans entail having them open up to each other. In order to address the matter, I thought I would take a closer look at what is, in my opinion, one of the strongest relationships between two Gardeners; that of Ren and Amanda. I quickly realized that although they succeed in developing a significant bond, it seems as though they don’t follow the expectation mentioned earlier. As a matter of fact, the two girls often open up about the struggles they are facing. For instance, they are seen discussing Amanda’s break up with Jimmy as well as some emotions it brings up (314), which is something I consider to be quite personal. So in reality, an important factor contributing to the closeness between Ren and Amanda consists of disrespecting one of the Gardeners’ rules.
Consequently, would it be appropriate to say that in order to be an obedient and responsible Gardner, one has to seek support and consolation from the elements in nature rather than from other human beings? If so, how satisfying can the environment truly be when it comes the fulfillment of emotional needs?