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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 941

Blood (Inheritance)

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The central symbol of Bloodroot is an actual bloodroot, a plant that grows on the mountain and which has a blood-like sap used as both medicine and as poison. Blood works in similar ways in the novel, as family connections both heal and harm the characters of the novel.

The women forming the focus of the novel—Byrdie, Myra, Clio and Laura—each follow the same path as teenagers. Each suffers from “itchy feet” and longs for freedom. Each falls in love with an unlikely man. For Byrdie, this leads to a long and satisfying marriage. For the others, the impulse to passion leads to short, violent and tragic marriages. Clio dies along with her husband shortly after giving birth to Myra. Myra’s husband abuses and she is forced to flee the marriage. Laura’s husband dies shortly after she gives birth to a baby.

The parallels between these generations of women are presented as if drawn from the blood or as if part of a family curse.

John Odom also closely resembles his family in behavior and in his pernicious attitudes toward women. Though Johnny Odom does not share this bigotry, he does possess the same quick anger.

The theme of inheritance is symbolized in the text by two objects, a blood-red wedding ring and a carved box, each of which are passed from one generation to the next as treasures and as the continuation of a curse.

Bonded to Nature (Mysticism)

Byrdie’s bloodline is endowed with mystical abilities. Her aunts are experts in healing remedies and certain kinds of natural magic. They can help people fall in love and know how to cure diseases with the use of nature—herbs, fire, and spells.

One of Byrdie’s aunts has a special ability. She is able to let her spirit leave her body and travel wherever she wants. Later, Myra finds that she has inherited this ability.

During the section of the book narrated by Byrdie and Doug Cotter, nature is central to the identity of the Byrdie, her aunts, and Myra. Bloodroot Mountain, the actual bloodroot plant, and various animals are depicted as playing a large part in the family’s vision of the world and in their relation to it.

Part of what sets Byrdie’s family apart from others is this special, mystical connection with nature. This informs Byrdie’s unwillingness to leave Bloodroot Mountain and Myra’s resolve to return to the mountain at any cost.

When Myra is institutionalized, she recalls the stories of out-of-body flight that her grandmother told her and learns to send her spirit out of her body. She visits Bloodroot Mountain while her body remains in the ward.

Early in the novel, the family’s mystical leanings are particularly demonstrated in Myra’s relationship to animals. She is able to calm animals and she is the only person capable of even touching the untamed, painted horse, Wild Rose. On one occasion Myra is covered with butterflies which land on her as she rests at the edge of the forest.

Acceptance of Personal Nature

A subtext of the novel’s interest in nature can be seen in the parallels between external and internal nature. Just as the wild horse proves impossible to tame, the powers of the characters’ inherited traits are too urgent to overcome. Byrdie, Myra and Laura each follow the same path to love because they cannot do otherwise.

Characters in the novel are challenged to learn to accept the fact that changing this pattern is impossible because changing one’s blood is impossible. The mountain stands as a physical symbol for this notion, unchanging and wild and quietly powerful in its constant presence. The...

(The entire section contains 941 words.)

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