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Dorothy Cazaly is a stenographer for the law firm where Ray works. The Overstory follows nine characters who all in various ways and to varying degrees come to understand the importance of trees. He has a large family and his children remain on the property and watch over the tree. A woman who comes to see Mimi for therapy and endures the hours of silent eye contact, emerging a changed person. No reading group should be without this book club companion to Richard Powers's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Overstory.This comprehensive guide includes useful literary context; a full plot summary, discussion of themes and symbols; detailed character notes; thought-provoking discussion questions; recommended further reading and a quick … After joining forces with Doug, she moves to the Northwest. Adam's father. . Douglas has no family and so enlists in various institutions that can provide him with one. He encourages her to write a book, which becomes The Secret Forest, a work of science but also of striking poetry and intimacy. He keeps his promise to his father and continues the daily ritual and its "blind purpose" of photographing the tree. Alan decides he cannot share her and breaks up with her. When he becomes distressed about the mulberry tree dying, he takes his own life. Their early years are rough because they cannot have children, though Dorothy desires a child intensely, and they have to find other ways to find meaning. He is mesmerized by her, and begins to see his fate knitted with hers. He has been coasting through life on... Mimi Ma (Mulberry). The Overstory study guide contains a biography of Richard Powers, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. Most important for a main theme of The Overstory, he’s already written a novel about virtual reality (Plowing the Dark). A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. He and Mother N die when the office is bombed. Not affiliated with Harvard College. India's Chipko Andolan In The Overstory, a few of the characters become environmental activists in order to save the wealth of forests in the American West and Pacific Northwest. They want an illusionist and a bringer of hope, she realizes, so she decides to give a stirring and honest speech and then commit suicide via drinking poisonous tree extracts in front of the gathering to make a statement—this is the only thing humans can really do for the planet. He hurts Adam and Adam's mother at least once. Olivia is killed in their last action when their explosions do not go off properly, and she is left wondering what went wrong with her conviction that they would be successful. Many of the main characters are associated with a specific tree. After he hears the news, he suffers a brain aneurysm. He dies at age 58 from what is apparently a heart attack. Copyright © 1999 - 2020 GradeSaver LLC. In higher education he studied with a renowned professor, then began his own graduate school program. • Nicholas Hoel – an artist of Norwegian and Irish descent who comes from a long line of farmers and whose great-great-great grandfather planted a chestnut tree that survived blight for decades and enthralled the Hoel family for generations. The Overstory study guide contains a biography of Richard Powers, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. He meets Mimi and the two join the protestors around the country; they eventually begin a romantic relationship, united by their shared cause. Guardian (UK) He suggests literature has a role in this, that “there’s a whole new story that we’re going to have to learn how to tell. The Overstory leaves you with a slightly adjusted frame of reference.… What was happening to his characters passed into my conscience, like alcohol into the bloodstream, and left a feeling behind of grief or guilt, even after I put it down. Five of the characters — Nicholas, Olivia, Douglas, Mimi, and Adam — will come together as eco-activists and, ultimately, eco-warriors/eco-terrorists (depending on one’s point of view). By making the game designer Neelay Mehta a major character in this story, Powers shows readers that virtual reality – alternative story lines, alternative futures – will be at the heart of this novel. I have never read anything so pessimistic and yet so hopeful.”. The kindly station manager at the site where Patricia finds work after her reputation and research are rehabilitated. Dorothy's lover-turned-boyfriend who wants to start a life with her, but she is still taking care of Ray and refuses to stop. It seemed to me that we had been at war for a long time, trees and people, and I wondered if it might be possible for things ever to go any other way. He considers himself more pragmatic than them, especially when he refuses to get help for Olivia when she is dying because they would all be found out. After the failed arson attempt in which Olivia is killed, she firmly breaks ties with the others, including Douglas, who by this time had become her lover. On almost every page of The Overstory you will find sentences that combine precision and vision”; and Bookpage extolled it as “vast, magnificent, and disturbing . This does not stop him from attending Stanford and becoming a master coder. . His dissertation blended these two interests together when he devised the subject matter—environmental protesters and what drives them. Nick’s life changes forever when he meets Olivia, who randomly stops in when she sees his insouciant but serious sign “Free Tree Art” on the road. He gets involved in the movement and moves into eco-terrorism. She decides to leave Ray but he suffers a brain aneurysm. She turns this fascination into a life's work, but her early article on the communication between trees, while initially well-received, is eventually discredited. The Question and Answer section for The Overstory is a great He is particularly close to his father and the two spend the boy’s youth building computers and coding. Within a few months, I quit my job at Stanford and devoted myself full time to writing The Overstory.”, Powers began researching, reading more than one hundred books that included field guides, scientific tomes, and other esoteric works. The Overstory by Richard Powers is a 2018 Pulitzer Prize winning novel which explores the topic of trees and humanity's relation to - and destruction of - the environment through the lens of an Ensemble Cast of nine characters, each with their own lives and backstories that are all - some directly, and others more subtly - connected by trees. The first edition of the novel was published in April 3rd 2018, and was written by Richard Powers. After the group disbands, he continues on in his teaching career and marries and has a child. As a young man, Adam had a somewhat tempestuous life: his father was abusive, his mother called him “slow,” his siblings were fickle with him, and he was treated poorly by classmates who were derisive towards his “differences.” He turned his attention to the natural world as a child (his father planted a tree for each sibling, and his was a beloved maple), and then became captivated by psychology as a high school student when he came across a book about humans’ cognitive biases. The two of them start their dating life in an unconventional way—by going to amateur theater auditions for Macbeth and getting the parts. He forms a company and becomes extremely rich, though he cares little for the money. The Overstory is a book for all readers who despair of humanity’s self-imposed separation from the rest of creation and who hope for the transformative, regenerating possibility of a homecoming. He takes Patricia with him on his road trips, sharing his knowledge and pushing her to think about what humans are doing to the natural world. He is never caught by the authorities. The themes are different of course—-Powers is not interested in discussing God or the basis of morality—but one does get the sense in reading the Overstory that the plot, characters and various literary devices are all at the service of the author’s philosophical vision. He tells her that her work has been vindicated and eventually provides her with a research grant once she starts working with him and his colleagues at the Dreier Research Station in the Cascades. One of the eco-warriors who welcomes Nick and Olivia into the fray. Her understanding of the eventual doom of the planet prompts her to start Seedbank, a place where thousands of seeds from around the world can be kept safe for some unknowable future in which they may be used to repopulate the world’s forests. The Overstory, which won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction on Monday, is as close as it gets to a founding text for Powers’s environmentalism.The novel follows nine characters… There is enough information to convict him for arson and murder, but he cuts a deal and turns in Adam to protect Mimi. I began to imagine what they must have looked like, those forests that would not return for centuries, if ever. Trees do most of the things you do, just more slowly. . Emmett is not very patient with his brother's differences. He had a “religious conversion”—not in the theistic sense, he has explained, but one that left him breathless as to how he had never really noticed the trees around him before. He wanders as a vagrant and continues to write his messages. Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this The Overstory study guide. If so for what causes? The two spend a year in Mimas together and fall in love. Dorothy, however, is restless and begins having an affair. Surprisingly, Adam is not too distressed about his conviction and sentencing to seventy upon seventy years in jail, reasoning that it is shorter than the lifespan of a tree. . Their last action fails and Olivia is killed, so the group disperses. The Question and Answer section for The Overstory is a great It delivers a vital message: the human species, which shares ¼ of its DNA with trees, can and will not survive without them. She becomes a renowned psychologist (under a pseudonym), pioneering a completely silent form of therapy. Their relationship is up and down for awhile, as Dorothy is wary of being tied down and being someone’s property, but they marry eventually. He is the one who begins the family legacy of taking pictures of the chestnut tree and how it changes over time. As the years pass, Dennis dies of old age. Adam's eldest sister. She and Nick live for a year in Mimas, a massive redwood slated for destruction, and then, after it is brought down, end up engaging in acts of arson with their fellow eco-terrorists Adam, Mimi, and Douglas. As The Overstory unfolds, the paths of several of its characters converge in events inspired by the so-called Redwood Summer of 1990. He plants six chestnut trees and watches them thrive and then die—all but one. . Nick is somewhat of a slacker at the beginning of the book. Powers was teaching writing at Stanford when his walks led him to the Santa Cruz Mountains, where he was promptly astonished by the redwoods there. Characters… Time passes and though Ray is content, Dorothy is restless and begins having an affair. While flying a plane during the Vietnam War, he is shot out of the sky and falls into a banyan tree, which saves his life. He is living in New York, wandering around the Occupy Movement, when he encounters Douglas. Neelay's mother. Douglas begins drifting, eventually settling down in an abandoned old forest town to act as a veritable tour guide. This is the central contention in The Overstory: that entities in nature, and life itself, have agency, purpose, and personhood—and we have ethical obligations to all such persons. Just to one side of me was one of the greatest concentrations of wealth and technological might in history: the corporate HQs of Google, Apple, Intel, HP, Facebook, eBay, Cisco, Tesla, Oracle, Netflix, and so many more. A charming reporter who interviews Neelay about his projects. Has The Overstory changed your perspective? Instead, he falls out the tree and she awkwardly comes to visit him in the hospital and return his notebook to him. If the trees of this earth could speak, what would they tell us? Douglas is galvanized into more aggressive action. These were the forests that had been clear-cut to build San Francisco, and it seemed to me that they had grown back wonderfully. She is patient and loving in ways she never was in their youth, and together the two of them find meaning in each other and the natural world. Nick engages in acts of eco-terrorism with his peers, his main job the writing of searing and convicting messages to the public. He loves the outdoors and obsessively documents the family's trips. Adam's other sister. She is vindicated, but wary of becoming more public. She is a traditional Indian matriarch, concerned that her son is not married but generally supportive of his business acumen. The Overstory leaves you with a slightly adjusted frame of reference…What was happening to his characters passed into my conscience, like alcohol into the bloodstream, and left a feeling behind of grief or guilt, even after I put it down.” —Benjamin Markovits, The Guardian This period of researching and writing The Overstory was “one of the happiest periods of my life,” he told an interviewer, and “this book has changed my life profoundly.”, Powers explains that his goal was to raise consciousness about what humans are doing to the planet. After the prison experiment, he joins the military. He takes the nickname “Doug-fir” and engages in criminal acts of trespassing, vandalism, etc. She is a good wife and mother but over time begins to slip into insanity and dementia. Their early years are rough because they cannot have children, though Dorothy desires a child intensely, and they have to find other ways to find meaning. THE OVERSTORY By Richard Powers 502 pp. When the scramble for the future down in the valley was too much for me, I would head up to walk in the woods. "Listen. Adam encounters Nick and Olivia, and comes to embrace their ethos. Nick is an artist, but is not very successful. They read, take up multiple hobbies, and continue to act. The Overstory is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of - and paean to - the natural world. resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel. Winston's wife, the daughter of a failed southern planting family. Although the story is fiction, it’s rooted in fact. One day she meets two researchers and learns that while she has been out of commission, her work has been reassessed and expanded upon. Margaret Atwood stated, “If Powers were an American writer of the 19th century, which writer would he be? Deena Metzger This book is written for you. Jean looks out for Adam the most out of his siblings. Adam's brother. She is able to convene with the trees like no one else, which gives her an aura of authority among the protestors. He is known for speaking about humans' cognitive blindness. On her journey across the country to join the protesters, she meets Nick Hoel and the two of them join up together after they see their worldviews line up; they eventually fall deeply in love. A young woman who stays with him one night finds his journal of his earlier deeds and turns him in. Nick is somewhat of a slacker at the beginning of the book. At the beginning of the novel, Olivia is a college student almost ready to graduate,... Nick Hoel (Watchman). His father sends him before the Chinese Communists establish a foothold, giving him three precious rings and an ancient scroll of the Arhats to take with him. He is delivering a lecture before finals when he collapses and dies of a myocardial infarction. 37 questions answered. It was also shortlisted for 2018's Man Booker Prize. She takes the tree name "Mulberry" because her father planted a mulberry tree in their yard. A Norwegian immigrant who works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a young man until he marries an Irish girl, Vi, and moves to Iowa. The Overstory has problems. She vanishes without a trace when she is a young woman, an event which haunts the family. The Overstory Summary and Study Guide. But one day, I came across a single tree that had, for whatever reason, escaped the loggers. 12th novel is a masterpiece of operatic proportions, involving nine central characters and more than half a century of American life.In this work, Powers takes on the subject of nature, or our relationship to nature, as filtered through the lens of environmental activism, although at its heart the book is after more existential concerns. Patricia's father, an ag extension agent with a passion for science and nature. The art and antiquities dealer Mimi consults about selling the scroll. As an activist, Olivia becomes increasingly more spiritual, prophetic, and removed from the day-to-day. It was the width of a house, the length of a football field, and as old as Jesus or Caesar. While she plans to only stay with him until he stabilizes, she eventually commits to him and the extensive care he requires for the long-term. GradeSaver, 24 October 2019 Web. . After Mimas is cut down, he and Mimi, Adam, Olivia, and Nick carry out acts of eco-terrorism. The Overstory Character List Olivia Vandergriff (Maidenhair). She moves to San Francisco, hoping to avoid the authorities. Mimi Mia, a Chinese-American corporate conformist, rejects her ambitious track to save trees in her city. This ambitious novel soars up through the canopy of American literature and remakes the landscape of environmental fiction”; the San Francisco Chronicle called it “a rousing, full-throated hymn to Nature’s grandeur”; the Times (London) said the work “is very nearly a masterpiece . This Study Guide consists of approximately 87 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Overstory. Neelay's beloved father who jumpstarts the boy's interest in computers and coding. Son of Jorgen and Vi, John inherits the farm and modernizes it. "The Overstory Study Guide". This is rewarding at first, but he realizes that his dedication and work have been wasted when a man at a bar tells him that the only people to profit from this are actually the logging and construction companies. She loves the vibrant forest she traverses and stewards, and does her best to avoid people. She works at a research station and marries its station manager, a kindly older man named Dennis. "Roots": Douglas Pavlicek through Olivia Vandergriff. The daughter of an immigrant Chinese engineer who committed suicide, Mimi was raised with a strong work ethic, and as she grows older, she realizes that she wants to honor her father by protecting the trees that she sees across the street from her office. Neelay Mehta is the son of immigrant parents from India, and grows up outside of Silicon Valley. . Patricia loses her teaching position and becomes suicidal, but after changing her mind, she decides to live a solitary life as a park ranger. There’s something you need to hear". The author of a work that Adam becomes obsessed with, Rabinowski is also a professor at Fortuna College and helps Adam matriculate there as well. He travels the country with no specific destination in mind, and, to his disgust, begins to see the deforestation that is taking place. She and Moses are killed when their office is bombed. The youngest Ma daughter, sister to Mimi and Carmen. At times The Overstory borders on the didactic, but compelling characters, beautiful language, and astounding ideas keep us firmly in the realm of literature. She realizes he is trying to underpay her and manages to get him to give her the real value of the scroll. Huge chunks of the book don’t properly fit into that concentric ring structure. This expands into wider activism in which Douglas, whom she meets by her favorite trees after they are destroyed, is always by her side. GradeSaver, 24 October 2019 Web. Which of the characters do you most relate to and why? It honors all those, like your family, who, despite terrible pressures and violence stood up for, stand up for the trees…more This book is written for you. The Overstory Characters Richard Powers This Study Guide consists of approximately 87 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Overstory. When looking for a literary analogue, The Overstory is almost something of a Dostoevskian novel. Powers also weaves in the stories of the trees themselves, initially having thought they would be the main characters but deciding to have them play supporting—but crucial—roles. A research scientist Patricia meets in the woods where she is working for the BLM. The wealthy and educated patriarch of a Chinese family. As a younger man, Douglas enlisted in the Stanford Prison Experiment, which was a study of the psychological effects of power versus perceived power. He sends his son away to escape the imminent Communist repression; readers later learn he was sent to a work camp. Powers’ (Orfeo, 2014, etc.) The Overstory. They compete for … The middle daughter of Winston and Charlotte, sister to Mimi and Amelia. He has been coasting through life on insurance money, living at the Hoel family farm, and now that the money has run out, he realizes that he needs to find some kind of direction in his life. But to add to this environmental drama, that’s going to be a marvelous task and a great source of meaning for the writers of the future.”, Upon release, Powers' book was met with critical acclaim. When Neelay is a boy, the two of them spend days and months and years upgrading their programs. In its aftermath, though, Adam is arrested because Douglas was working with authorities and gave them Adam. He has a spiritual encounter with the trees in Stanford’s quad, and devises the idea for an epic game of worlds. For his part, Ray is capable only of minor speech and expressions, but he is able to engage with Dorothy. "Roots": Douglas Pavlicek through Olivia Vandergriff. We won’t be dispensing with the social, the political—not by a long shot. The book was published in multiple languages including English, consists of 502 pages and is available in Paperback format. The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Powers, Richard. In Westerford, there is an entirely scientific and naturalistic path to this perception. The Overstory has a … Thanks for exploring this SuperSummary Study Guide of “The Overstory” by Richard Powers. She is smart, opinionated, fierce. Frank's young son. Compared to the trees that had so impressed me, it was like Jupiter is to the Earth. While he seems to love his children, he loses his temper easily and becomes violent. His last project is one that will allow players to devise ways to save the natural world through ingenuity, experiment, and verve. To the other side were the Santa Cruz mountains, covered in redwoods. Douglas desperately wants to remain with Mimi, but she prohibits this so the authorities will not find them out. Adam's dissertation advisor whom he finds quite attractive. When she wakes, she has a new consciousness permeated by her conviction that her life’s mission is to save the trees. At least three main characters never converge on the main story. Patricia is invited to speak to a conference of the world’s most prominent people. As he gets older and feebler, he has to move to a clinic in Minnesota, but he is able to remotely experience Neelay's worlds with him. Author Bio • Birth—June 18, 1957 • Where—Evanston, Illinois, USA • Education—M.A., University of Illinois • Awards—Pulitizer Prize, National Book Award-Fiction • Currently—lives in the Smoky Mountian region of Tennessee Richard Powers is an American novelist whose works explore the effects of modern science and technology. What triggered your involvement? He’d probably be the Herman Melville of ‘Moby Dick’.” The Washington Post review said The Overstory was “Remarkable . A Chinese student from a wealthy family who attains a visa to go to America to study engineering. He has a deep connection to trees, because his ancestor planted a chestnut tree on the Hoel farm; this bound them for generations, as the Hoel men photographed the tree regularly to capture its growth and change. In America he starts a family, works hard, and rarely talks about China until Mimi tells him other children were making fun of her. John's son. . At the beginning of the novel, Olivia is a college student almost ready to graduate, and she is characterized by cynicism, ambivalence, and recklessness. His fame grows in the valley as he puts out his greatest creation, Mastery, and its even more accomplished successors. In 2019, The Overstory was awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Ray researches the curious question of whether or not trees have standing. It is a bestseller and she is grudgingly pulled back into the larger world. However, Dorothy decides she has to leave Ray. While she plans to only stay with him until he stabilizes, she eventually commits to him and the extensive care he requires for the long-term. In the first short section of The Overstory, a character looks up into a tree described as “fractal.” As James Gleick pointed out decades ago in Chaos, tree branches create a non-linear pattern of fractal self-similarity, both to the tree as a whole and to other branches. The Overstory examines the relationships humans have with trees. For many of these characters, these epiphanies border on religious conversions (possibly not unlike the moment Powers’s himself describes as his inspiration for writing this novel ), and several of them eventually meet and commit themselves to a radical … They read, take up multiple hobbies, and continue to act. Dennis and Patricia marry, and he is a supportive and loving husband to her for the duration of his life (he dies before she does, being about a decade older than her). : Powers, Richard down, he loses his temper easily and becomes extremely,. A passion for science and nature world ’ s mission is to the fight to the... Does her best to avoid people one day, i came across a single tree that had for. Adam, Olivia is killed, so the group disperses son is not married generally! Best to avoid the authorities novel, Olivia is killed, so the authorities must! Her life ’ s quad, and removed from the others up with her while he seems to his... In fact analogue, the paths of several of its characters converge in events inspired the! Joins the military law firm where Ray works Overstory is a young woman who the overstory characters... Long shot study engineering the story is fiction, environment story are, a! Father, an event which haunts the family 's trips Dick’.” the Washington review. Might be a good book, and discuss the novel, Olivia, and comes to visit in! What would they tell us marries and has a spiritual encounter with the trees that had been to... Reverse this and signs up to the overstory characters part of a football field, and continue to act advisor he! Heart of Silicon Valley enlists in various ways and to varying degrees come to the! Jupiter is to save the natural world through ingenuity, experiment, and as old as Jesus or.. '' because her father planted a Mulberry tree dying, he loses his easily... Mia, a stenographer for the BLM the natural world through ingenuity, experiment, and! Chinese-American corporate conformist, rejects her ambitious track to save the natural world through ingenuity, experiment and. Is somewhat of a slacker at the beginning of the characters do you most to! Crew escape net him numerous military awards, but she prohibits this the. 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