State Of Wonder

The theme of a fragile ecological balance is a vital one to ‘State Of Wonder’. 

In the book, Dr.Annick Swenson has been working with the Lakashi tribe in the Amazon jungle for many years, claiming to work on a fertility drug, when in reality; she has been working on a drug to inoculate against malaria. 

The Lakashi eat the bark of a tree, called the Martins, which allows them to be extremely fertile, having children well into their 70s. A local moth, the Martinet, in turn lays its larvae in the open tree bark and this appears to inoculate those who eat the bark against malaria.
The overproduction of babies in this tribe is vital because of the high death rate from malaria in the area. As a result, the high fertility rate helps to keep the tribe alive, when malaria threatens their existence. However this delicate balance is only possible because of the trees which grow in a very small area, and are difficult to reproduce outside of the natural habitat. The doctors working on the drugs know that if word gets out locally about the mushrooms, the tribe will be wiped out. The fight to defend the Lakashi from description is a primary theme of the novel.

Another major theme in ‘State Of Wonder’ is the moral and ethical choices that people are forced to make. From the beginning of the novel, Marina is forced to choose the comforts of her own life and doing what is right by others and by her own conscience. 

When Anders is missing, thought to be dead, his wife Karen asks Marina to throw concern for her to the wind in order to find out what happened to her husband. 

Marina does so because her morals will not allow her to rest. Once in the Amazon jungle, Marina is again faced with a number of moral and ethical choices. When she discovered Dr.Swenson is working on a malaria druid outside of the knowledge of her employer, but in an honest effort to cure malaria in the third world countries, Marina must choose to do what is right by her company, and what is right by humanity. She chooses to be moral, knowing that the inoculation for malaria is far more valuable than the fertility drug that her company is aiming to produce. When she learns Anders is still alive in another tribe, Marina must choose between her own safety and possibly rescue of her friend. She chooses to go after Anders as she knows this is the ethical choice.

The advances of medical science in contrast with the concept of what is the best for humanity are another theme within the novel. 

Dr.Swenson and her team are simultaneously developing two drugs. The first, a fertility drug, would allow women into their seventies to carry and deliver children, thereby extending the fertility time line greatly. The second is a drug that will immunize against malaria, a disease which kills eight hundred thousand children a year. Ironically even Dr.Swenson realizes that these two drugs, if introduced simultaneously, would cause severe over population.
Although the research has helped to fund a drug against malaria, this initial purpose of the study, the lengthened fertility of women, is an unsafe practice for normal, post menopausal women. While it is true that Swenson used a fertility study to fund a malaria drug, it is also true that a valuable drug to save lives was discovered. The author is firm in the statement that just because something can be done medically, does not mean it is in the best interest of the human population to do so.

State Of Wonder
State Of Wonder

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