Natural Power in “Salvage the Bones” by Ward Jesmyn Essay

August 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Aug 13th, 2020

The power of nature is one of the fascinating aspects that can be traced in Salvage the Bones – motherhood, family ties, love, poverty in the United States of America, and social inequality. It is a remarkable reminder that nature is in control of everyone’s life, regardless of the belief that people rule the world because once nature decides to hit, people lose their power (Ward 164). Even though it can be destructive, nature is the symbol of social equality, justice, and beautiful memories, warming hearts.

To begin with, there are several aspects of storylines that are seen as depictions of nature. First and foremost, it is the nature itself – physical landforms, weather, animals, and geographic phenomena. From this perspective, nature is described in detail, as there are numerous descriptions of words, rivers, animals, birds, and insects. Moreover, there is a line of instincts as natural phenomena. For example, birds have a sense of upcoming disasters and “out of the storm, and everything else roams as far away from the winds and rain as possible” (Ward 39), giving, at the same time, signs to people.

Still, the very essence of nature changes during the story, as it grows from friendly and indifferent to destructive and punishing, returning to friendly at the end of the novel. The core of the novel is the duality of nature. It is shown in describing China, who can be a loving pet and mother when she is with her puppies and Esch (“China is licking the puppies – I ‘ve never seen her so gentle” (Ward 18) and turn into a monster during dogfights and hunting, letting its instincts override its motherhood senses and tenderness when it comes to “the mad scrabble, [showing] the cutting barks and teeth” (Ward 103). This duality is in the description of woods that are both soothing during taking walks and feeling “the green reach of the trees” (Ward 53) and daunting when the darkness covers the awe of dogfights and violence (Ward 124). This ambiguity is in the very essence of treating animals because even though China is a beloved pet, it is taken to “illegal dogfights set back in the woods” (Ward 15) every once in a while in order to win some money for the needy family. Even though a pit bull is trained as a fighter, the power of its love is stronger than violent instincts as soon as a dogfight ends, and it is returned home to its puppies, feeling “love as certainty” (Ward 91).

Moreover, the power of nature is seen in the proximity and interconnectedness of life and death. This duality is described in the miracle of birth, as Esch’s mother died during giving birth to the youngest child, Junior (Ward 167). Also, it is found in the feelings of Esch when she finds out that she is pregnant herself. Being afraid of consequences, she wants to get rid of her baby, but then she looks at China and realizes that motherhood and bringing new life to this world is the ability to discover what love is and how powerful instincts and nature are, as “to give life is to know what’s worth fighting for” (Ward 77). In addition, nature is often used for describing feelings, as Esch believes that people can be “like quiet and the wind” (Ward 22) or “hunched like birds” (Ward 174).

Still, the most astonishing description of the power of nature is the depiction of storms and Hurricane Katrina. Again, it is the subject of duality. At the very beginning of the story, storms are seen as a reason for small rejoicing because, in case of power dump, the mother “barbecued all the meat left in the silent freezer so it would not spoil” (Ward 10) and the family spent evenings together, sharing meals and enjoying each other’s company. However, at the same time, it was the source of anxiety because the father did not know how to make money every time a new storm broke out and covered New Orleans (Ward 82). Now, as mommy had gone and daddy turned into a total alcoholic, these memories warmed Esch’s heart. However, with the imminence of Hurricane Katrina, the feeling of family unity grows stronger. Everyone realizes that family is of the biggest value, and even though they are poor and forced to eat noodles during the time of the hurricane, support, care, and helping family is the most important things (Ward 118, 149).

The depiction of Hurricane Katrina and the destructive power of nature is the symbol of reunion and renewal. It is the source of new memories that are connected to family and the feeling of family unity and rejoicing survival. Because “Katrina is the mother that we [the whole family] will remember” (Ward 191), it is the supplementation to the recollections that are related to mommy and the good old days when the whole family was together and happy regardless of poverty and need. Even though there are no bright emotions and memories of mother, the very fact that the family members supported each other and survived is a precious gift that will change their life and perception of joy and happiness.

As for the statement that the power of nature is the symbol of renewal, it is connected to the concept of equality and justice. It is the reminder that people are all equal when it comes to natural phenomena and that no one has the power to control them. Nature does not make the difference between the poor and the wealthy. Once it decides to hit, everyone is equal because it is the hurricane that “tells us [people] what to do” (Ward 137). So, after disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the recognition that everyone is equal is the renewal of social conscience because human life, family, and unity are the only determinants of wealth.

The duality of nature was chosen to remind the reader that life is short, and rejoicing every moment is the best choice for living it. As for depicting the power of nature in the context of American poverty, it represents inequality in society because for poor, “every week [is] a new storm” (Ward 10) as a depiction of instability in their lives. It is as well another argument for promoting equality and ignoring the exaggerated significance of material values and investing in spiritual development. Moreover, it is used for highlighting the importance of social support and unity not only within a family but also community and nation as the whole, eradicating arrogance and promoting mutual help.

Works Cited

Ward, Jesmyn. Salvage the Bones. New York, New York: Bloomsbury, 2011. Print.

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