When the Killings Done
Character Analysis: Who Was Anise?
In the contemporary novel When The Killing’s Done by T.C. Boyle, the secondary character Anise is an animal-loving singer who is dating the leader of an unethical organization called FPA, Dave LaJoy, she often helps his organization and consequently dies. Though her actions are misled, her intentions are well founded in the morals she gained as a young child that have shaped her as a character. Through the character of Anise, T.C. Boyle comments on good but misguided actions by presenting her childhood trauma, veganism, and the finding of her body as points of empathizing with Anise and understanding that although her actions were imperfect her intentions are genuinely good.
During her childhood Anise lived on Santa Cruz Island, with her mother and many sheep ranchers in Scorpion Ranch. During her time living there Anise develops a love for animals and this love is what drives her to want to protect all living things later in the novel. When the lambs are attacked by the ravens she is devastated and very affected. As Anise was holding one of the dying lambs, ”I can’t,” she cried, her voice cracking, “I can’t,” and Rita saw that the lamb in her arms was bloodied”(164). This traumatic incident impacts how Anise perceives things such as death and right to live, to see the death of an innocent animal at such a young age changes the way she perceives the relationship between humans and nature. It enhances her empathy for animals, and causes her to value the life of every living creature. She later recalls this event as, “the biggest trauma of my life-”(222). This memory of the crows attacking the baby lambs is one of the most defining moments for her character, it is a moment that dictates how Anise will live the rest of her life. Anise’s caring for animals carries on into her adult life in the form of helping the FPA. She joins them with the hopes of saving the animals, something she genuinely believes in but gets caught up in the organization’s unlawful and unethical plans resulting in her untimely death.
Anise is fully committed to being a vegan; this lifestyle choice, especially when contrasted with Dave’s eating habits, shows Anise’s commitment to saving animals. The first time Dave has her over for dinner he makes veggie omelets and she rejects the omelet saying, “Meat is murder. And so are eggs” (132). Anise’s love for animals runs so deep that she rejects animal products altogether in order to protect wildlife. Though she knows giving up meat alone will not save all the animals, she is willing to make sacrifices in her daily life to not contribute to a system of animal cruelty. Dave who claims to be “savior” of all animals, eats eggs which shows how he is hypocritical. Dave puts on a front when dealing with the public to make them think he is the ideal animal rights activist when in reality he doesn’t truly try to save the animals in his daily life, while Anise’s intentions are genuine and she “practices what she preaches”. Later in the novel while speaking to her mother, who is talking about loving the taste of lamb, she repeats “And meat is murder” (221). Anise is taking a strong stance even when speaking to her own mother, she is so dedicated to saving animals both in public and in private. She does not shy away from confrontation when it regards something she believes in so strongly. Anise does not hesitate to try and educate someone on the cruelty of meat even if they are a member of her family or the public. Since her intentions are authentic and good-hearted she stands up for what she believes in and follows through with what supporting the cause entails.
In the last few pages of the novel, it is revealed that Anise’s body was the only one that was found after the shipwreck, this symbolizes how Anise’s is the good within the bad that is the FPA and Dave’s plan. As Rita narrates the final pages of the novel she recalls the finding of Anise’s body, “The rest of them-Dave, Wilson, the other girl-they never found. Not a trace. Nothing of the boat either, except the scrap or two that washed ashore” (367). The ones who had bad intentions at heart, or selfish reasons bodies’ were lost and never found. Anise, because she had pure intentions and ideas at heart was found. Her love for nature is what redeems her in the end. Though she has gotten herself into things with Dave that were not only bad for the animals but are illegal and could land them in jail, she kept doing them because she wholeheartedly believed she was doing the correct thing and saving the animals. She justifies the things she is doing by believing that she has to do whatever it takes to save the animals and stop the killing. The fishermen who find Anise’s body tell Rita, “there were boats on top of boats down there”(367). The fact that there are many boats and so many bodies that have been lost shows that it was almost a miracle for Anise’s body to be found. The boats also symbolize that there are layers of bad, but that some good still remains.
Although Dave, Wilson, and Alicia had bad and selfish intentions at heart, Anise did not, which is why she is the only one who is found, she is the good within the bad. Anise believes in saving animals and her beliefs are founded in life experience which have transformed her and push her to make sometimes questionable decisions in the name of saving the animals. Though these decisions ultimately lead her to lose her life in the name of an unethical organization, she keeps her beliefs of valuing all life throughout the novel and these values lead her to be the silver lining of FPA. There are many people in the organization “saving the animals” for selfish or rebellious reasons, but she represents the good but misguided people who genuinely want to save the animals but cannot see what they think is helping can worsen the situation. People can have good intentions founded in strong beliefs and think they are fighting for the greater good when they are actually doing more harm than helping the cause.
Man Versus Nature: Descriptions and Messages in When the Killing’s Done
In the contemporary novel When the Killing’s Done, author T.C. Boyle tells the powerfully relevant story of Alma Boyd Takesue, her antagonist Dave Lajoy, and their attempts to exert dominion over the natural world. Set on the Channel Islands off the coast of California, the novel reveals timely themes regarding the Earth’s cycle of life and how mankind has altered it, for better or for worse. Throughout the plot, Alma strives to preserve the Island’s native ecosystem, while Dave tries to protect the invasive species, but it is nature’s response to these actions that expose Boyle’s honest thoughts on the prevalent issues occurring currently environmentally and socially. While plants and animals may not necessarily be controlling mankind, When the Killing’s Done reiterates the idea that every aspect of Earth is supposed to work in unison, so when humans disrupt it, the universe responds. As shown through symbolic weather and the many characters that experience extreme trauma at sea, man does not have dominion over the environment, thus illuminating T.C. Boyle’s theme that the world’s natural order cannot be defied, and humans’ attempts to alter it will simply result in self sabotage.
Boyle’s use of weather is used constantly throughout the novel to depict that Alma’s argument is the correct one, even when it seems immoral, while Dave’s surface level plan to protect the animals who were introduced to the Island by humans, will further disrupt the ecosystem. When Alma is returning to the Island after successfully restoring the native species, the weather is clearly accommodating to her as Boyle notes, “She’s never seen the channel so smooth. There isn’t even so much as a bump coming out of Ventura Harbor and at ten in the morning it’s as warm as midday” (359). The weather switches around often in the book – in one chapter the sun will be shining and in the next a storm will strike – and it usually has to do with which character the plot is focusing on at that moment in time. Boyle utilizes the weather to subtly signify that Alma is in the right and Dave is in the wrong, which is why nature is setting up Alma and her crew for success. Dave on the other hand is constantly complaining about bad weather, as Boyle writes, “the vitamin K was dissolving in the rain and he was utterly helpless to do anything about anything” (118). It is almost as if the universe is doing everything it can to stop Dave from being triumphant, from making the waves choppy so that he cannot sail, to destroying the vitamin K tablets he is giving to the rats. The rain present when Dave is working towards his goals, represents the control nature possesses over man. Dave thinks he can regulate the animals on the Island, but the environment works in unexpected ways and is capable of drastically benefiting or harming humans.
Beverly’s experience when she was lost at sea, alongside the numerous deaths that occurred in the ocean, demonstrate that while people’s surroundings can save them in miraculous ways, they can also easily destroy. When the story of Beverly and her incident at sea is retold, Boyle writes, “The universe stopped rocking. The sea fell away. And she found herself on a path leading steeply upward to where the fog began to tatter and bleed off until it wasn’t there at all” (30). This entire passage personifies Beverly’s surroundings as they cater to her situation and end up saving her life. The ladder “seemed to glide across the surface to her” (30), there is suddenly a “wooden barrel, a hogshead, set there to catch the rain” (30), for her to drink out of. Without Beverley even lifting a finger, she is being cushioned by her atmosphere, as if there is a guardian angel carrying her safely to land. Here the ocean, the plants, and the island have the power and these forces are choosing to aid her rather than destroy her, even though they have the ability to do both. While Beverly found her way safely to shore with a little help from nature, Till and Greg were not as lucky. During the wreck of Beverly’s ship, she thinks, “And Till? Where was Till? He could have been right there, ten feet away, and she wouldn’t have known it” (19). Unfortunately, the sea was not so kind to Till, and while Beverly survived, her husband did not. Till, a fisherman, had been stealing from the sea for years, while giving nothing back to it in return, and after years of him ending the lives of fish, the ocean ended his.
Greg dies in a similar way as Boyle focuses on Kat, writing, “he was drowning, that was it, and Mickey was drowning too. Flailing with all her strength against the chop and the hull that seemed to bob and duck away from her as if it were alive, as if this were a game” (257). In this frantic moment, even Kat admits that the waves are almost “alive,” and they are doing everything they can to ensure that Greg and Mickey do not survive. Just as Till had been fishing, Greg was collecting urchins when he lost his life, and though Kat was the one who poisoned him with Carbon Monoxide, the environment eliminated all chances she had to save him. Kat did not notice she had been pumping the wrong gas into their oxygen masks until it was too late, which parallels to the way that humans may not realize the harm pollution is causing, until their home is already irreparable. Till and Greg represent a huge majority of humanity and the way people tend to greedily take from the Earth without ever compensating for it. Boyle uses the two characters to advise mankind to show gratitude for the planet, otherwise karma will take its course, just like it did to Till and Greg.
Mankind advances rapidly technologically, and sometimes that leads to humans who feel superior, but nature will always have the control- from sunny skies, to natural disasters, from saving lives to destroying them. The irony of it all is that people are the ones ruining the environment and while the lifestyle benefits society currently, the Earth could eventually be wrecked. By including the ways that nature responds to each character, Boyle is emphasizing that protecting and respecting an atmosphere and all species that inhabit it is vital, otherwise the planet will begin to fight back. Through allusive weather and the personification of the environment, When the Killing’s Done encapsulates the importance of repaying and sustaining the Earth, so that it can survive in unison with humans.