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.

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