The Familiar & Through the Arc

The Familiar is marked by a number of connections between stories: the number nine, the strange sound, rain, and a cat. At the same time, Through the Arc of the Rainforest by Karen Tei Yamashita is centered around birds. Focusing on animals, the cat in The Familiar is much like birds in Through the Arc; they are very important to the overall theme of the particular book.

Both The Familiar and Through the Arc of the Rainforest begin explaining the lives and personalities of extremely different characters. Sometimes these characters are closer to each other, such as Xanther and her family or Kazumasa and his ball, Hiroshi, and Lourdes. However, sometimes the characters are across oceans from one another. Either way, in both books the characters end up being tied together in some way or another. In The Familiar, the cat that Xanther found was the runaway cat that belonged to jingjing’s aunt (if I am remembering correctly). In Through the Arc, Baptista’s pigeons eventually ended up bringing Kazumasa and J.B. Tweep together. Animals in both books bring together characters who would have otherwise never come in contact with one another.

In addition, though the main plots of each book do not have much to do with the cat or the birds, they are most definitely seen in the climaxes of both. The climax of Xanther’s story is when she is running through the rain in a panic, finally stopping when she comes across a cat falling into a gutter. She saves the cat and brings it home, and her uneasiness about life seems to disappear. The climax of Through the Arc occurs when a plague kills a large number of people– this plague stems from lice found on the feathers of birds. To stop the plague, planes flew around spraying the pesticide DDT, killing all of the birds in the areas that were treated.

Without the presence of these animals, the books would have completely different endings and meanings. How do you think The Familiar would have been different had Xanther not saved the cat that had originally belonged to jingjing’s aunt?  How would Through the Arc of the Rainforest be different if, say, Baptista had fallen in love with an animal aside from birds?

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