The Ties that Bind

When becoming immersed in literature that connects so heavily, it can become easy to see the connections between characters amongst different literature. In class, I was able to discuss the attitudes of some of the women we were able to read about during the semester. Specifically, the group I was in compared Keira’s attitude at the end of Clay’s Ark to the attitude of the women who took care of Cee in Home. In both cases, Keira and the women who cared for Cee have been through traumatic situations, and they are forced to get through these situations by whatever means necessary. Mentally, it seems that they all put up a barrier in order to protect themselves, even if it makes them come off as detached from the situation or unkind to those around them. There is no time for empathy when getting through the day is a struggle in itself.

At the end of Clay’s Ark, Keira is reflecting on the death of her sister, Rane. Eli tells Keira how strong Rane was, and she thinks to herself, “Not strong enough, Keira thought. Not against the car family. Not against the disease. Not strong at all (621).” Keira has been left alone in the world following the death of Rane, as well as her father. In addition to that, she has become contaminated with the organism that has infected everyone else on the farm. As she has to move on with her life and face what it has become, she seems to become hardened to it. When you are forced to move forward with your life before you are given the opportunity to grieve, you cannot properly handle your feelings about the past. Even though we, as the readers, know that Rane fought to get herself away from the car gang, she still didn’t make it out alive. Rane killed people as she was about to die, and she tried to make it to her sister, but Keira doesn’t acknowledge this when thinking about her. Instead, she acts as though Rane was too weak to make it through this situation with her. Keira has gone through the same situation as her father and sister, but now she is the only one that has to keep living without the two of them. Even at the very end of the book, she talks about her father, saying that she “shook her head, not wanting to think of him. He had been so right, so wrong, and so utterly helpless (624).” By being forced to keep on living her new life, how is Keira expected to properly come to terms with the death of the people closest to her? It may be easier for her to resent the people that have seemingly left her behind than to properly grieve.

In Home, we become acquainted with the women who take care of Cee after she is experimented on by Dr. Beau. When Frank brought her to these women he was sent away for weeks while they were trying to heal her. They took complete control over the situation, preventing her closest relative from being allowed to see her, because he would have just interfered. Once Cee is better, they let her know that they do not trust the medical industry, and she shouldn’t either. As black women, they understand that historically they have been subjected to the kinds of tests and experiments that Cee underwent, and they want her to be more aware of this as well. Although there are a multitude of examples to draw from, the first that comes to mind is that of the Mississippi appendectomy, when black women would be made unable to have children without their consent (Washington). When she tries to stand up for herself and ask how she was supposed to know his plans, one woman responds by saying “Misery don’t call ahead. That’s why you have to stay awake – otherwise it just walks on in your door (122).” Although these women heal her in the ways that they can, they are not what we would think of as kind about it. They are clear that they don’t trust doctors, and they let her know what they think about her actions. They make her better and they make sure she is okay, but they are not easy on her when it comes to their opinions on her situation. 

Keira seems to me like she is progressing towards being like the women who cared for Cee. The women who take care of Cee are older, and they have arguably been through more in their lives than Keira. While Keira had cancer, and dealt with the death of her mother, and eventually the death of her father and sister, there is something to be said about longevity. She is only sixteen during the events of Clay’s Ark, while the women in Home are at least middle aged. Keira’s trauma happens in a short period of time, while the other women have dealt with a lifetime of pain, even if we don’t know the specifics of their situations. If they know enough to bring Cee back from the brink of death, and they are clear about their distrust of doctors, they must have gone through something to learn so much. When you have to constantly handle traumatic events, it seems as though you have to become numb to a certain extent. People do not have an endless amount of energy to put into their emotions, or to put into caring for others. At a certain point people must separate themselves from the situation in order to care for themselves. While Keira has only just gone through the events of Clay’s Ark it seems plausible that she could come off as cold one day, just like the women in Home.

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