Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story takes place in Arizona, whose landscape is described as a moonscape, dry, barren, and lifeless. Ironically, the trailer park in which the characters live is named “Island Breezes,” but it is hot and dry and there are no breezes. In the beginning, the name of the place serves to underscore the hopelessness of Annemarie’s life. Later in the story, the symbolism vividly illustrates Magda’s comparison of mother and daughter to islands on the moon. They choose isolation from each other when there are no natural obstacles to communion.

Although this story reads like a clip from real life and its themes involve human relationships, it is rather light in tone. The characters are multidimensional, but their comical sides are emphasized. Kingsolver uses trivial things to characterize the people in the story, such as Magda’s “one-hundred-percent-cotton dresses” and the flames painted on the hood of Buddy’s car. The triviality increases the sense of realism. There is a tension, however, between this light tone and the unresolved conflict between mother and daughter. This tension is carried through in several literary devices. The name of the desert trailer park, “Island Breezes,” emphasizes the absence of water and refreshing breezes in the Arizona desert. The “knotted ropes of motherhood” are the very image of tension.

Annemarie creates tension in her own life, resisting every overture by her mother, forcing her naturally wavy hair into short spikes. She views relationships, at least the one between herself and her mother, as if they are battlefields, in which there are opposing sides rather than reciprocity.

Islands on the Moon Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Beattie, Elisabeth L. “Story-Telling Traditions.” Keeneland Magazine, Winter, 2003, 41-44.

Blake, Fanny, and Margaret Forster. “YOU Reading Group: The Poisonwood Bible.” YOU 9 (January, 2000): 77-79.

Cockrell, Amanda. “Luna Moths, Coyotes, Sugar Skulls: The Fiction of Barbara Kingsolver.” The Hollins Critic 38, no. 2 (2001): 1-15.

Eisele, Kimi. “The Where and Why of Literature: A Conversation with Barbara Kingsolver.” You Are Here 2, no. 2 (1999): 10-15.

Flairty, Steve. “Barbara Kingsolver—Kentucky’s ’Polite Firebrand’ Author.” Kentucky Monthly, February, 2002, 12-15.