Surprisingly, Adam is not too distressed about his conviction and sentencing to seventy upon seventy years in jail, reasoning that it is shorter than the lifespan of a tree. For many of these characters, these epiphanies border on religious conversions (possibly not unlike the moment Powers’s himself describes as his inspiration for writing this novel ), and several of them eventually meet and commit themselves to a radical … India's Chipko Andolan In The Overstory, a few of the characters become environmental activists in order to save the wealth of forests in the American West and Pacific Northwest. Characters… Patricia loses her teaching position and becomes suicidal, but after changing her mind, she decides to live a solitary life as a park ranger. . A research scientist Patricia meets in the woods where she is working for the BLM. Dorothy, however, is restless and begins having an affair. After the last action goes awry and Olivia is killed, Nick becomes estranged from the others. In its aftermath, though, Adam is arrested because Douglas was working with authorities and gave them Adam. He considers himself more pragmatic than them, especially when he refuses to get help for Olivia when she is dying because they would all be found out. She is vindicated, but wary of becoming more public. The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Powers, Richard. He plants six chestnut trees and watches them thrive and then die—all but one. The author of a work that Adam becomes obsessed with, Rabinowski is also a professor at Fortuna College and helps Adam matriculate there as well. . The Overstory has a … She vanishes without a trace when she is a young woman, an event which haunts the family. When Neelay is a boy, the two of them spend days and months and years upgrading their programs. On almost every page of The Overstory you will find sentences that combine precision and vision”; and Bookpage extolled it as “vast, magnificent, and disturbing . This expands into wider activism in which Douglas, whom she meets by her favorite trees after they are destroyed, is always by her side. It is a bestseller and she is grudgingly pulled back into the larger world. But one day, I came across a single tree that had, for whatever reason, escaped the loggers. The art and antiquities dealer Mimi consults about selling the scroll. Adam's father. She becomes a renowned psychologist (under a pseudonym), pioneering a completely silent form of therapy. The Overstory study guide contains a biography of Richard Powers, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. Son of Jorgen and Vi, John inherits the farm and modernizes it. Huge chunks of the book don’t properly fit into that concentric ring structure. It delivers a vital message: the human species, which shares ¼ of its DNA with trees, can and will not survive without them. Douglas begins drifting, eventually settling down in an abandoned old forest town to act as a veritable tour guide. Their last action fails and Olivia is killed, so the group disperses. He dies at age 58 from what is apparently a heart attack. She is a traditional Indian matriarch, concerned that her son is not married but generally supportive of his business acumen. She is patient and loving in ways she never was in their youth, and together the two of them find meaning in each other and the natural world. What triggered your involvement? As the years pass, Dennis dies of old age. . The kindly station manager at the site where Patricia finds work after her reputation and research are rehabilitated. The Question and Answer section for The Overstory is a great We won’t be dispensing with the social, the political—not by a long shot. He has a deep connection to trees, because his ancestor planted a chestnut tree on the Hoel farm; this bound them for generations, as the Hoel men photographed the tree regularly to capture its growth and change. This is the central contention in The Overstory: that entities in nature, and life itself, have agency, purpose, and personhood—and we have ethical obligations to all such persons. He keeps his promise to his father and continues the daily ritual and its "blind purpose" of photographing the tree. She is able to convene with the trees like no one else, which gives her an aura of authority among the protestors. Douglas has no family and so enlists in various institutions that can provide him with one. After the group disbands, he continues on in his teaching career and marries and has a child. When she wakes, she has a new consciousness permeated by her conviction that her life’s mission is to save the trees. . A young woman who stays with him one night finds his journal of his earlier deeds and turns him in. An essential tool for all reading groups! He has been coasting through life on... Mimi Ma (Mulberry). In the novel, Richard Powers refers to many save-the-trees efforts around the globe, including the Chipko Andolan in the 1970s in the Himalayan region of India. Mimi Mia, a Chinese-American corporate conformist, rejects her ambitious track to save trees in her city. The wealthy and educated patriarch of a Chinese family. Their relationship is up and down for awhile, as Dorothy is wary of being tied down and being someone’s property, but they marry eventually. When he uses a curse word with her, she grows angry and plans to punish him. If the trees of this earth could speak, what would they tell us? He is the one who begins the family legacy of taking pictures of the chestnut tree and how it changes over time. Deena Metzger This book is written for you. It was also shortlisted for 2018's Man Booker Prize. On her journey across the country to join the protesters, she meets Nick Hoel and the two of them join up together after they see their worldviews line up; they eventually fall deeply in love. The Overstory Characters Richard Powers This Study Guide consists of approximately 87 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Overstory. 12th novel is a masterpiece of operatic proportions, involving nine central characters and more than half a century of American life.In this work, Powers takes on the subject of nature, or our relationship to nature, as filtered through the lens of environmental activism, although at its heart the book is after more existential concerns. After the failed arson attempt in which Olivia is killed, she firmly breaks ties with the others, including Douglas, who by this time had become her lover. However, Dorothy decides she has to leave Ray. When looking for a literary analogue, The Overstory is almost something of a Dostoevskian novel. While he seems to love his children, he loses his temper easily and becomes violent. The Overstory, which won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction on Monday, is as close as it gets to a founding text for Powers’s environmentalism.The novel follows nine characters… How about the last 20 years or longer? As The Overstory unfolds, the paths of several of its characters converge in events inspired by the so-called Redwood Summer of 1990. She realizes he is trying to underpay her and manages to get him to give her the real value of the scroll. She loves the vibrant forest she traverses and stewards, and does her best to avoid people. She is a good wife and mother but over time begins to slip into insanity and dementia. Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this The Overstory study guide. It honors all those, like your family, who, despite terrible pressures and violence stood up for, stand up for the trees…more This book is written for you. an array of human temperaments and predicaments as manifold as Charles Dickens’ or Leo Tolstoy’s . Adam encounters Nick and Olivia, and comes to embrace their ethos. In higher education he studied with a renowned professor, then began his own graduate school program. This Study Guide consists of approximately 87 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Overstory. His last project is one that will allow players to devise ways to save the natural world through ingenuity, experiment, and verve. "The Overstory Study Guide". He dies when she is a teenager. She decides to leave Ray but he suffers a brain aneurysm. Adam's dissertation advisor whom he finds quite attractive. Spanning multiple time periods and including numerous narrators, it tells the story of a group of activists who are called to protect the last 3% of redwood trees on the Earth. The Overstory examines the relationships humans have with trees. When the scramble for the future down in the valley was too much for me, I would head up to walk in the woods. Winston's wife, the daughter of a failed southern planting family. There is enough information to convict him for arson and murder, but he cuts a deal and turns in Adam to protect Mimi. Readers’ questions about The Overstory. Frank's young son. His father sends him before the Chinese Communists establish a foothold, giving him three precious rings and an ancient scroll of the Arhats to take with him. Powers explains, “I was teaching at Stanford and living in Palo Alto, in the heart of Silicon Valley. To the other side were the Santa Cruz mountains, covered in redwoods. He has a large family and his children remain on the property and watch over the tree. A Norwegian immigrant who works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a young man until he marries an Irish girl, Vi, and moves to Iowa. Nick’s life changes forever when he meets Olivia, who randomly stops in when she sees his insouciant but serious sign “Free Tree Art” on the road. A woman who comes to see Mimi for therapy and endures the hours of silent eye contact, emerging a changed person. He and Mother N die when the office is bombed. One night when she is high, she touches an electrical socket and dies from electrocution. Olivia is killed in their last action when their explosions do not go off properly, and she is left wondering what went wrong with her conviction that they would be successful. Alan decides he cannot share her and breaks up with her. She takes the tree name "Mulberry" because her father planted a mulberry tree in their yard. One of the eco-warriors who welcomes Nick and Olivia into the fray. In 2019, The Overstory was awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for fiction. He tells her that her work has been vindicated and eventually provides her with a research grant once she starts working with him and his colleagues at the Dreier Research Station in the Cascades. He suggests literature has a role in this, that “there’s a whole new story that we’re going to have to learn how to tell. Powers’ (Orfeo, 2014, etc.) The youngest Ma daughter, sister to Mimi and Carmen. It seemed to me that we had been at war for a long time, trees and people, and I wondered if it might be possible for things ever to go any other way. After joining forces with Doug, she moves to the Northwest. $27.95.. GradeSaver, 24 October 2019 Web. He is living in New York, wandering around the Occupy Movement, when he encounters Douglas. It was the width of a house, the length of a football field, and as old as Jesus or Caesar. Neelay Mehta is the son of immigrant parents from India, and grows up outside of Silicon Valley. She helps him get to his planned topic of study—the behavior and motivations of tree-huggers. Her understanding of the eventual doom of the planet prompts her to start Seedbank, a place where thousands of seeds from around the world can be kept safe for some unknowable future in which they may be used to repopulate the world’s forests. Has The Overstory changed your perspective? Their relationship is up and down for awhile, as Dorothy is wary of being tied down and being someone’s property, but they marry eventually. THE OVERSTORY By Richard Powers 502 pp. She works at a research station and marries its station manager, a kindly older man named Dennis. The Overstory Character List Olivia Vandergriff (Maidenhair). He meets Mimi and the two join the protestors around the country; they eventually begin a romantic relationship, united by their shared cause. His heroic actions in helping his crew escape net him numerous military awards, but he has a bum leg and is discharged. He is killed at Argonne. While flying a plane during the Vietnam War, he is shot out of the sky and falls into a banyan tree, which saves his life. Osborne-Bartucca, Kristen. By making the game designer Neelay Mehta a major character in this story, Powers shows readers that virtual reality – alternative story lines, alternative futures – will be at the heart of this novel. The two spend a year in Mimas together and fall in love. In the first short section of The Overstory, a character looks up into a tree described as “fractal.” As James Gleick pointed out decades ago in Chaos, tree branches create a non-linear pattern of fractal self-similarity, both to the tree as a whole and to other branches. The Overstory leaves you with a slightly adjusted frame of reference.… What was happening to his characters passed into my conscience, like alcohol into the bloodstream, and left a feeling behind of grief or guilt, even after I put it down. The Question and Answer section for The Overstory is a great I began to imagine what they must have looked like, those forests that would not return for centuries, if ever. The Overstory might be a good book, and it might be a bad book. Instead, he falls out the tree and she awkwardly comes to visit him in the hospital and return his notebook to him. Dorothy's lover-turned-boyfriend who wants to start a life with her, but she is still taking care of Ray and refuses to stop. resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel. Most important for a main theme of The Overstory, he’s already written a novel about virtual reality (Plowing the Dark). The Overstory study guide contains a biography of Richard Powers, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. He is known for speaking about humans' cognitive blindness. At least three main characters never converge on the main story. Which of the characters do you most relate to and why? She turns this fascination into a life's work, but her early article on the communication between trees, while initially well-received, is eventually discredited. Patricia is invited to speak to a conference of the world’s most prominent people. Ray researches the curious question of whether or not trees have standing. I have never read anything so pessimistic and yet so hopeful.”. Neelay's mother. A Chinese student from a wealthy family who attains a visa to go to America to study engineering. • Nicholas Hoel – an artist of Norwegian and Irish descent who comes from a long line of farmers and whose great-great-great grandfather planted a chestnut tree that survived blight for decades and enthralled the Hoel family for generations. After the prison experiment, he joins the military. The Overstory has problems. Patricia has been fascinated by trees for her entire life, and at a young age learns from her father that they are able to communicate with each other. Jorgen's wife, a strong Irish girl who helps Jorgen run the farm. Douglas desperately wants to remain with Mimi, but she prohibits this so the authorities will not find them out. But to add to this environmental drama, that’s going to be a marvelous task and a great source of meaning for the writers of the future.”, Upon release, Powers' book was met with critical acclaim. When he becomes distressed about the mulberry tree dying, he takes his own life. Nick engages in acts of eco-terrorism with his peers, his main job the writing of searing and convicting messages to the public. Guardian (UK) "Roots": Douglas Pavlicek through Olivia Vandergriff. He is delivering a lecture before finals when he collapses and dies of a myocardial infarction. In her later years she agonizes over her actions and tries to come to terms with them, and with her relationship with the trees. Trees do most of the things you do, just more slowly. Within a few months, I quit my job at Stanford and devoted myself full time to writing The Overstory.”, Powers began researching, reading more than one hundred books that included field guides, scientific tomes, and other esoteric works. The themes are different of course—-Powers is not interested in discussing God or the basis of morality—but one does get the sense in reading the Overstory that the plot, characters and various literary devices are all at the service of the author’s philosophical vision. In America he starts a family, works hard, and rarely talks about China until Mimi tells him other children were making fun of her. The Overstory is a book for all readers who despair of humanity’s self-imposed separation from the rest of creation and who hope for the transformative, regenerating possibility of a homecoming. Dorothy Cazaly is a stenographer for the law firm where Ray works. The book was published in multiple languages including English, consists of 502 pages and is available in Paperback format. "Listen. Five of the characters — Nicholas, Olivia, Douglas, Mimi, and Adam — will come together as eco-activists and, ultimately, eco-warriors/eco-terrorists (depending on one’s point of view). The middle daughter of Winston and Charlotte, sister to Mimi and Amelia. They read, take up multiple hobbies, and continue to act. She is smart, opinionated, fierce. This is rewarding at first, but he realizes that his dedication and work have been wasted when a man at a bar tells him that the only people to profit from this are actually the logging and construction companies. Author Bio • Birth—June 18, 1957 • Where—Evanston, Illinois, USA • Education—M.A., University of Illinois • Awards—Pulitizer Prize, National Book Award-Fiction • Currently—lives in the Smoky Mountian region of Tennessee Richard Powers is an American novelist whose works explore the effects of modern science and technology. Powers also weaves in the stories of the trees themselves, initially having thought they would be the main characters but deciding to have them play supporting—but crucial—roles. It might be a novel that reaches out for the unattainable and falls short of it, or a novel that overshoots its own good intentions. For other characters, the path is more intuitive, sensual, and mystical. Their early years are rough because they cannot have children, though Dorothy desires a child intensely, and they have to find other ways to find meaning. After Mimas is cut down, he and Mimi, Adam, Olivia, and Nick carry out acts of eco-terrorism. Adam's eldest sister. Ray Brinkman is an intellectual property lawyer, and he is attracted to Dorothy, a stenographer where he works. . While she plans to only stay with him until he stabilizes, she eventually commits to him and the extensive care he requires for the long-term. His consciousness grows, and he becomes as committed to the fight to save the trees as she is. This does not stop him from attending Stanford and becoming a master coder. Jean looks out for Adam the most out of his siblings. He travels the country with no specific destination in mind, and, to his disgust, begins to see the deforestation that is taking place. She is patient and loving in ways she never was in their youth, and together the two of them find meaning in each other and the natural world. His dissertation blended these two interests together when he devised the subject matter—environmental protesters and what drives them. Copyright © 1999 - 2020 GradeSaver LLC. A charismatic, thoughtful leader of the Life Defense Force, Mother N preaches nonviolence and helps the eco-warriors strategize and carry out their obstructionist actions. She fears no physical harm, either from nature or the forces against the protestors. The Overstory leaves you with a slightly adjusted frame of reference…What was happening to his characters passed into my conscience, like alcohol into the bloodstream, and left a feeling behind of grief or guilt, even after I put it down.” —Benjamin Markovits, The Guardian He carries on the photography project, and when he goes off to fight in WWI, he tells his son to do the same. She and Nick live for a year in Mimas, a massive redwood slated for destruction, and then, after it is brought down, end up engaging in acts of arson with their fellow eco-terrorists Adam, Mimi, and Douglas.
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