Overview of Flight of the Iguana by David Quammen

Overview of Flight of the Iguana by David Quammen

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Chapter Analysis- Introduction

     This chapter, or in this case the introduction, is exactly what it is labeled as; an introduction. The main ideas of this introduction are more or less used to explain the goals of this book and also used to familiarize the reader with what is to come. Throughout the introduction, the author, David Quammen refers to a wide variety of unique and unheard of organisms that exist in nature. Not only do these organisms sound weird, but many often behave in unordinary ways. The okapi, the Xylocaris, the chambered nautilus, and the plant that eats frogs are just examples of the many different organisms Quammen talks about. The reason for Quammen’s use of such organisms is not to scare readers away from nature, but to actually lure them in. The main idea of Quammen’s whole introduction is basically to show readers that nature is not a freak show, but to show simply nature itself. At first this whole idea may seem a little cloudy and vague, but as you read on, one will start to understand what Quammen is really striving for. Quammen uses animals and plants as examples to show the very intricacies of nature and the natural world. One example that he uses that has helped my understanding of this idea was the black widow spider. Quammen tells us of his strong fear of spiders and he goes on telling us how the black widow is very poisonous and menacing, yet possesses an undeniable beauty. He also states the black widow as being dangerous but not malicious, and gorgeous or hideous depending upon how we see it. Quammen’s point is that no matter how you see the spider, it is still part of nature.
     Adding to this idea that nature and all of its ugliness and abnormalities is still in fact nature, Quammen goes on further by addressing the human attitude towards nature’s intricacies. By this, Quammen refers to the human attitude towards nature as a whole based solely upon his/her opinion of one organism. As textual evidence for this idea, the example of the spider can be used again. Most people associate the black widow as being venomous and deadly, and so they unfairly associate the same characteristics with harmless beneficial house and garden spiders as well. This attitude toward the spiders can also be applied to nature as a whole. Since humans posses this attitude towards nature, a lot of nature’s beauty is often overlooked.

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In explaining his idea of human attitude, Quammen looked at a poem written by Walt Whitman. My understanding of the poem was that a leaf of grass is no more important than the stars, and an ant is equally perfect as well. This can be interpreted as meaning nothing in nature is more important than anything else. In relation to Quammen’s idea, the human attitude totally contradicts this idea. Since humans possess an attitude so narrowly minded and so easily influenced by other factors that we often forget the importance of the smaller aspects of life, such as a blade of grass. Quammen might not go as far to apply this idea to life as a whole and say that humans are so narrowed minded in the way we look at things that we forget about the less important aspects of life, but this assumption just goes to show how influencing Quammen is after only reading the introduction. If Quammen were able to read this, he would be very happy because he states that if, from his book, the reader is even vaguely inclined to think about some matter of attitude, he will be very gratified. I have thought about and pondered his ideas not only for the purpose of writing this paper, but because I see the knowledge of which he speaks of.
     As our class went over and discussed the introduction, the theme of the mouse was barely touched. We mainly talked about how Quammen may have used the mouse as a theme to metaphorically represent nature as a whole. As I read over the introduction again, I was able see how the mouse could be a reoccurring theme throughout the book, yet I disagreed on the representation of nature as we talked about. I saw the mouse as a theme that metaphorically represents Quammen and his book. The title of the introduction, “A Mouse Is Miracle Enough,” is where we are first introduced to the mouse as a theme, and it is not mentioned again until the very last sentence of the introduction where Quammen states, “But I’ll be very gratified if the mouse is enough, on closer inspection, to stagger you.” (pg xiv) The fact that the theme is mentioned in the very beginning and referred to again in the very end tells me of its importance in the book. When you are asked the question, “what is your favorite animal?” do you answer with mouse? Chances are you probably don’t. A mouse is so small and so tiny that is it very forgettable and insignificant. In addition, when a mouse is brought into conversation, it usually has a negative connotation because some people are scared of them. Well this could also be said for Quammen and his ideas that he portrays through this book. So in making the connection, Quammen’s ideas about human attitude and nature can also be described as non-important, and small in terms of life. So by the title, “A Mouse Is Miracle Enough” and by Quammen saying that he will be gratified if the mouse is enough make you think about his ideas, he is in fact saying that if his book and ideas which are unpopular and insignificant, much like the mouse is to nature, can change your thinking and attitude, he will be very satisfied. I am almost certain Quammen will use the mouse as a reoccurring theme to provide comparison for the small number of people who posses the attitude he strives everyone to have against the attitude most people have.
     At first glimpse and reading through the introduction for the first time, I didn’t really understand what Quammen was striving for nor did I understand what this book was all about. To be honest, I really wasn’t interested in the book at all. After re-reading and looking deeper into the context of the words, I was further able to understand Quammen and his ideas. Though odd, I find Quammen’s writing quite interesting. His use of metaphors while also being forward is almost fun to unsolve and I often find myself agreeing with his ideas. I do agree with Quammen and believe that humans take for granted the less important things in life. While writing this, I found myself pondering about how humans are so caught up in time and convenience that we always put ourselves over anyone and anything else. Although I don’t not see myself living as a Jainist, I do find it important to take a step back every now and then to take a break from our fast paced lives to look at and appreciate such things we often overlook. So after reading Quammen, I do see the value and importance of his ideas, but to be honest, my attitude towards snakes, venomous or not, will remain unchanged for now.
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