Lab Girl Analysis
by Hope Jahren

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Lab Girl Analysis

Lab Girl is a story of survival—the survival of plants and the survival of humans in a harsh and challenging world. In Jahren’s view, plants are creatures much like humans, with wills of their own, who struggle to survive in the face of adversity and turmoil just like people do. Throughout the book, Jahren weaves the lives of plants with the lives of people, and she personifies the plants to convey their life force and compare it with the life force of humans.

Most significantly, she links the struggles of plants with the struggles she herself faces as she fights mental illness and prejudice in her attempt to establish herself as a scientist. Several prominent themes of the book are survival and the continuing fight for survival despite discouraging odds.

As a child, science and play are inseparable for Jahren, so it follows that, as she grows, she draws more comparisons between the scientific and personal parts of her life. From the time of her earliest memories, the two categories are always intricately connected. Over the course of her career, Jahren gains a fuller understanding of a plant’s struggles and a fuller understanding of her own. Jahren’s understanding of plants in this way helps her identify with them and bond with them. Similarly, the natural bond she feels with plants leads her to gain a better understanding of how they grow and thrive.

The structure of the book supports Jahren's thematic interweaving of plant and human life. The book is split into three sections, each named for parts of plants that are emblematic of different stages in their life cycles: "Roots and Leaves," "Wood and Knots," and "Flowers and Fruit." Within each section, Jahren alternates the narrative of her life, often...

(The entire section is 439 words.)