Patricia Westerford Chapter – The Overstory – Richard Powers

Patricia Westerford Chapter – The Overstory – Richard Powers

Q&Q Response

For your next Q&Q response as part of the Plant Ecology, Conservation, and Restoration module, I’d like you to read a chapter from Richard Powers’ recent novel (that won the Pulitzer Prize) entitled, The Overstory. The novel is a fascinating story about humans, plants, plant intelligence, history, ecosystems, human hubris and folly, and future of the planet. The novel follows 9 characters, who are introduced individually in their own chapters, and then their individual stories are synthesized together into one meta-story (i.e. “the overstory”), similar to the ways that individual trees are connected together (both underground and aboveground) in a forest.

The chapter I have excerpted here is about one of those characters, Patricia Westerford, and there are lots of intriguing ideas and connections to our class in this chapter. Powers is clearly well-versed in science and botany, so although it is fiction (and very well written fiction, IMO), a lot of the references he makes are rooted in scientific facts. So I hope you enjoy reading some fiction for a change!

For this Q&Q response, make sure you leave yourself enough time to read it, as it is a bit longer than the other Q&Q readings. Also, for your paper, do the normal things by pulling out a couple key quotations or passages; and pose (and attempt to answer) some questions about what those passages might mean and why they might be important or what they might connect to in our class…. For this one, though, I want you try to relate the description and detailed characterization of this character, Patricia Westerford, to what appears to be part of Powers’ broader thesis. I know you aren’t reading the whole novel, so you can’t fully articulate what the full thesis of the novel might be, but I want you to specifically think and write about:

1) Why is he creating a character like Patricia?

2) What are some of her key qualities and attributes?

3) Why is it important to understand and potentially relate to a person like Patricia?

4) What does this character potentially say about humans’ relationships to plants and the natural world more broadly?

Please attempt to answer those questions in your response.

A good, quality thoughtful response will be 3 – 6 pages (including quotations, so that really isn’t that long, overall). I hope you have fun. Let me know if you have any questions.

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