Devices in “Drive Your Plow…” by Olga Tokarczuk
In the book Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, using the main character Janina Duszejko, the author explores the theme of views, misunderstanding, and how they determine personal actions. The story is built as detective and mysterious, but it cannot be considered only from such a perspective since it covers more complex and significant issues. Concentrating on the opposition of an aged woman to patriarchal and nature-neglecting society, the author of the book draws attention to political, social, and environmental problems. Although the book’s main character advocates a noble cause and can be identified as an animal defender, some of her motives and actions are questionable from a moral point of view. This contradiction leads to the consideration of the fairness of using any means to achieve personal goals, even noble ones.
Stories and novels include protagonists who, as a literary device, revive the plot, arouse sympathy among readers, and attract their attention. Janina Duszejko is the driving force behind Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, through which essential topics are revealed. In particular, in the book, Tokarczuk significantly addresses the issue of self-identification and personal point of view. The writer contrasts the main character with the society in which she lives.
People see Janina as a crazy older woman who conducts a lonely way of life, differs significantly from the community, and values nature and animals more than people. Janina, in turn, finds joy in privacy and staying next to wildlife. As a conservationist among hunters, a woman is not afraid to confront others and defend her point of view. She does not find understanding in other people but finds it in herself: “For the best conversations are with yourself. At least there’s no risk of a misunderstanding” (27). Janina is also well aware of her age and is not deceived in her capabilities. Thus, the protagonist knows exactly what kind of person she is.
Moreover, through Janina, the writer reflects the question of what it means to be self. The main character feels that she is somewhat limited by her personality and ideas and cannot be someone else. For example, the woman claims, “I cannot be someone other than I am. How awful” (79). At the same time, Janina is concerned that people create their own beliefs about the world and then limit themselves to them. She agrees with the significant difference between personal views of the good and the bad and how much a person can defend these invented limited views. As a result, there are conflicts, misunderstandings, and a reluctance to accept another point of view.
The issue of restrictions is complemented by the setting of events that take place in the Polish village located close to the Czech border. Janina likes to cross the border between countries because she does not like restrictions. Dislike of boundaries, both real ones and symbolic applicable to points of view, is an essential feature of the main character’s personality. The woman strives to be honest, not limit herself to someone else’s framework, and have the courage to live her life and go her way.
Misunderstanding of other people’s views and undesire to overcome it, caused by personal restrictions, lead to sad consequences in the book. The community obsessed with the satisfaction of its own needs and desires does not notice the beauty of nature and does not show respect for it. As a result, everyone suffers – nature, its defenders, and even its offenders. For instance, without the killer’s intervention, hunter Big Foot dies choking on a bone.
This behavior and neglect provoked the protagonist to become a murderer and avenge the killed animals, among whom were two of her beloved dogs. She cannot accept the brutal murder of those whom she loved and to whom her heart flashed. The woman decides she has a chance to balance justice and tell about things worrying her for many years. The motive of revenge and murder acts as immoral phenomena and questions the presence of justice in the story. Meanwhile, the situation emphasizes the adverse effects of people’s minds restrictions and misunderstanding. They make an older woman who wants to appreciate and support nature do terrible things.
The issue of forming own personality and views, as well as how to share one point of view and accept others, is relevant for many people. While I try to defend my opinion, I can be open to new perspectives and accept that ideas can evolve and change. Personally, I am usually disappointed and sometimes angry with people who do not want to understand other people or respect their choices. Such limitations lead to misunderstandings in relations and can negatively affect them. People need to learn to be respectful and patient to others. Nevertheless, in this matter, it is crucial to maintain a balance – not only to respect someone else’s opinion but to have the courage to remain oneself.
Tokarczuk, Olga. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2018.