Jodie Picoult and Proofing Bread – “Handle With Care”

I am thoroughly enjoying reading Jodie Picoult’s “Handle With Care”. I haven’t finished reading it yet so this is not a book review … And I shouldn’t say this, but after having read three quarters of it, I think it might be her best yet.  Picoult chooses some meaty subjects to write about but sometimes there seems to be something lacking, perhaps in character development, or something contrived. This time she’s seems to have nailed the complexity of  the issue, and the characters are real.

What’s bothering me is the metaphor Picoult uses to suggest that we grow in adversity.  One of her central characters is a baker and baking metaphors are used to introduce each new section of the story.  To paraphrase, a baker punches down the dough between proofing.  ” … in baking, and in life – the cost of growth is always a small act of violence.”

I prefer to compare growing in adversity with the forging of steel. It requires great heat. The imagery of fire and a forge implies sweat, hard work and hammering, but also suggests passion, determination and perseverance.

Punching dough suggests bruising and caving in. Bread suggests something light and airy.

Perhaps we are meant to think that this character is on the brink of giving in, but has the inner strength to carry on, that the cost of being able to persevere is a feeling of being battered and bruised and broken.

Growth should come with a feeling of triumph and victory.  Punching dough implies defeat, giving in, being moulded by someone else. We grow in adversity; the cost may be pain, hurt, struggle, humiliation, but we forge our victories, we transform ourselves under stress. Growing in adversity is the forging of steel.

One thought on “Jodie Picoult and Proofing Bread – “Handle With Care”

  1. Thanks for your comment, Amy. I may prefer a different metaphor, but you’re right, punching dough as a small act of violence can be the cost of growth. I made the mistake of projecting on to the character my own image of growth through adversity, forgetting that the author is revealing something about the character through the use of this particular metaphor. I may have felt uneasy about the image of punching bread, but I’ll review that in the context of character development. Thanks for making me think … You made my head hurt!

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