Development as the Search for the Greater Meaning of Life
The fear of the Earth being stripped of its beauty and robust nature as a result of anthropogenic activity has been the fuel for multiple dystopian novels. While “A Friend of the Earth” seems to fall under the umbrella of the specified type of novel, it also offers a unique perspective on the approach toward mitigating the supposed catastrophe, which makes it an unusual specimen of the described type of literature. The message in question is expressed thoroughly through the development of Tyrone’s, or Ty’s, character. Ty’s character arch could be seen as the progression from being an ardent friend-of-the-Earth activist to a bitter and exhausted cynic. However, Ty’s actual arc represents a much grimmer development due to the damage to his mental health, which affects his relationships with the people close to him, even though eventually, he manages to find peace and even optimism.
Ty’s Character Progression
At first glance, the idea of supporting wildlife and encouraging the improvement of the ecosystem through political and social activism might seem like a sensible and reasonable decision to make. However, when considering the form that Ty’s activism takes, one will realize that it, in fact, is a manifestation of his mental health issues, including his depression and lack of personal and emotional attachment. Namely, his willingness to throw himself into the midst of eco-terrorism as a way of fighting the developing threat to wildlife and to life on Earth, in general, signals his mental health deterioration.
The described tone and message are ubiquitous throughout the description of Ty’s attempts at eco-terrorism. For example, Ty tends to have an increasingly grim outlook on nature at the beginning of his eco-terrorism development phase: “What I’m noticing, at the lower elevations, is how colorless the forest is. Here, where the deciduous trees should be in full leaf, I see nothing but wilt and decay, the skeletal brown stalks of the dead trees outnumbering the green a hundred to on” (Boyle, 2000). Ty’s focus on the lack of color in the leaves and the overall look of the forest signifies that he is suffering from depression and, possibly, other mental health issues that force him to seek an escape in any form of activity, thus, pushing him into the thicket of eco-terrorism. At the same time, the absence of color on the leaves could also be seen as a subtle reminder of the superficial nature of Ty’s efforts to rekindle his love for life by participating in the activities that are supposed to give his life a purpose. As a result, ty fails to question the reasonability of the actions that he, as a part of the eco-terrorist group, takes instead of plunging into the depth of terrorist activities.
Additionally, the inevitable development of a mental health concern becomes apparent once Ty starts observing the drastic effects of his attempts at saving wildlife from extinction. Namely, the failure to support and sustain the livelihood of endangered species drives Tyron to severe depression. The despair in Tyrone’s attitude and the devastation that he experiences as a result of his failure become apparent in his increasing anxiety: “He’d just want to explain what happened that night, how it stuck in him like a barbed hook, like a bullet lodged too close to the bone to remove, and how it was the beginning, the real beginning, of everything to come” (Boyle, 2000). Finally, Ty’s arc involves him distancing himself from the people that are close to him, thus, depriving himself of the opportunity to confide in someone whom he trusts and, therefore, is left with no support system.
Remarkably, despite depicting quite a dystopian future and leaving the ending open to interpretation, the novel does not suggest that Ty’s mental health exacerbates; quite the contrary, the author points out particularly clearly that Ty manages to find peace once he distances himself from the context of eco-terrorism and examines the nature of his failure. Specifically, Boyle (2000) provides the following commentary on Ty’s efforts at preserving the wildlife: “They would do what they had to do to survive-that was the point, wasn’t it? Catch and release. Did the Bushmen practice catch and release? And what about Great-grandfather Knowles-had he lived on air while wandering the Maine woods?” Therefore, the importance of a perspective and the need to reflect on the effects of the actions undertaken are reinforced.
Despite being a seemingly simple transformation from an eco-terrorist to a bitter and disillusioned old man, Ty’s character progression is much more nuanced, representing a step toward mental instability and gradual descent into personal madness, causing him to become an eco-terrorist. Furthermore, recognizing the devastating and drastic role of uninformed intrusion into the realm of nature as a noble yet pointless attempt at conservation, Ty becomes significantly more devastated. Even though he becomes capable of identifying the opportunity to be a positive change to the environment without destroying a specific part of it, he remains broken and defeated. Therefore, Ty’s character arc represents a peculiar and quite unique progression from an active agent of change who lacks perception to a disillusioned and jaded cynic deprived of agency and suffering from severe mental health issues.
Boyle, T. C. (2000). A friend of Earth. Web.