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The Dualism of Ecocentrism and Anthropocentrism in T.C. Boyle's "A Friend of the Earth"

Ann-Kathrin Latter

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Seminar paper from the year 2019 in the subject American Studies - Literature, grade: 1,0, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, language: English, abstract: Since our very beginnings as a species, we human beings have always struggled to improve the painful conditions of our existence. But, as we discovered more technologies which helped us live safer lives, this strive for well-being and progress has also led us further and further away from our natural origins, until we have almost found ourselves at war with the Earth, our home planet. It is only in recent years, that we have come to realize how much we have already denuded the earth of its natural resources. Since the first environmentalist movements in the 19th century, there has been an increasing number of systematic efforts to raise our awareness of environmental issues. Scientists like James Lovelock and David Suzuki have outlined the necessity to preserve our ecosystems if we want to survive as a species. And, of course, the popular media have also been used to convey the values of coexistence, sustainability, and respect for the environment.One such book, which advocates the rights and interests of “Mother Nature” or, at least, encourages a public discussion about new ecological policies, is T.C. Boyle’s novel A Friend of the Earth. Judging from the title alone, one might suppose that this book represents a written plea for the application of environmentalist values in our everyday lives. However, the story also contains many incidents when the environmentalists are portrayed in a rather disgraceful light that seems to give substance to the many prevailing negative stigmas against them. Therefore, I analyze how ecocentrism and anthropocentrism are displayed in the book. My main focus will be on the different ways that Boyle treats the two ideologies, respectively, as well as the possibility of a compromise between their standards. Thus, I hope to show that the novel promotes a right balance between anthropocentrism and ecocentrism that resembles the biblical maxim of “human stewardship for nature”.

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