State of Wonder Themes

Ann Patchett

State of Wonder

  • 52-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 11 chapter summaries and 6 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by an experienced high school teacher with a Master's Degree in English
Access Full Summary

State of Wonder Themes

Civilization as a Corrupting Force

Though Amazonian tribes like the Lakashi and the Jinta initially seem far removed and isolated from the influence of modern life and civilization, Marina discovers that the desire for economic and social power can spread and corrupt even in the Amazon Basin. For example, during a trip down river to the Jinta Trading Post with Alan and Nancy Saturn, Dr. Budi, Benoit, and Easter, Marina is startled t to find several white tourists so far up the Amazon. As well as their presence, Marina notices the considerable impact the tourists on the behavior of the Jinta Indians, who pander to them and their cameras, transforming their traditional ceremonies and dances into public entertainment. In addition, those Jinta not dancing or performing, dedicate their efforts to selling trinkets and crafts for financial gain. Rather than having an authentic encounter with another culture, the tourists are given what they want, a spectacle and a few exotic pictures that they can brag about with their friends and colleagues back home. The superficial nature of this encounter is made clear by the fact that the tourists mistake Marina for a Jinta Indian.

For the Amazon tribes, however, even the most minor intrusion from the outside world poses a grave threat to their culture and behavior. Of these intrusions, the introduction of money represents a particular threat.  For example, during their return trip from the Trading Post, Benoit is so desperate to prove himself as a potential tour guide in the booming Amazon tourism industry that he attempts to single-handedly capture an anaconda, hoping to cement his reputation as a guide. His brazen attempt nearly kills Easter, and clearly traumatizes his passengers. Though civilization can be a source of social and economic progress, the Anaconda scene draws a darker portrait; it is an unfortunate microcosmic example of how just a drop of profit motive in the Amazon can lead to wide-ranging socio-cultural contamination.

The Power of Medicine to Aid and Exploit

From a macro-economic perspective, State of Wonder is a novel about a powerful, global biomedical and pharmaceutical corporation, Vogel, attempting to exploit…

This is just a preview. The entire section has 1024 words. Click below to download the full study guide for State of Wonder.