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In keeping with ecofeminist suggestions that “the more dependent a region is on resources from outside its locality, the more vulnerable it is ecologically and socially,”35Prodigal Summersuggests that changes wrought on the environment and the characters which inhabit it (human and otherwise) result from the dependence on resources from outside the region. These changes range from the harmful effects of hunting predators and reliance on pesticides (which kill not only plant life but also, it is implied, both Ellen and Jewel through cancer) to foreign “invaders” as diverse as the fast growing kudzu vine and the immigrant Mexican workers, that impact upon the local culture. Kingsolver’s novel configures outsiders as sources of change in both positive and negative ways. In social anthropology, the concept of endogamy describes a situation where individuals marry and mate within a discrete community, while exogamy is characterised by individuals marrying and mating outside the community to ensure diversity. These principles infuse Kingsolver’s narrative emphasis on humans as part of nature and speak to the need for diversity within communities. The novel represents the positive and negative effects of diversity, weighing the introduction of new varieties of apple and chestnut species justified by the principle of exogamy,against the benefits of maintaining the natural heritage of existing communities, as advocated by endogamy. While Japanese blight kills the American 34Rachel Carson was a renowned advocate of environmental ethics. Her 1962 book Silent Springchallenges the practices of agricultural scientists and the government, and warns of the dangers of pesticide use, which are deemed responsible for the death of the eponymous Rachel Carson in Prodigal Summer. Carson’s biographer, Linda Lear, describes how the writer “could not stand idly by and say nothing when…human existence itself was endangered.” Linda Lear, Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature(London: Penguin, 1999), 4.35Salleh, “Deeper than Deep Ecology,” 343.
236chestnuts, so a Chinese tree allows the American chestnut to return (132). Similarly, Eddie both threatens Deanna’s coyotes and conceives a child with her. And Lusa, who marries into the Widener family and is seen as stealing the farm once her husband dies, actually ensures its survival by introducing a new glocal approach to farming. The coyote, often considered to be a trickster figure in Native American mythology, figures prominently in Prodigal Summeras a maligned outsider in its own territory. While white settlers condemned native peoples as savages and embarked upon a process of cultural genocide, hunters have made the coyote a scapegoat for their fears about the decline in a traditional agricultural way of life. In this way, Deanna is seen to empathise with the coyotes as fellow matriarchal “refugees of human damage” (58).