A PBL Take: Final Thoughts on Diane Cooke’s New Wilderness

Cooke’s well-developed prose drew us in from the beginning of the novel. The vivid descriptions of the nature and setting in which the characters live and battle for survival added richness to the plot and demonstrated the severity of the environment. While many people are familiar with sci-fi media, not many people are as aware of cli-fi, a genre trailblazed by Cooke through her awareness of the nature in which we live and its fragility in the face of human carelessness. The poor state of the fictional city created by Cooke demonstrates the great lengths to which humans disregard the natural state of earth in favor of a life deemed to be “better.” This sense of improvement in the quality of life proves itself to be inherently false, however, as pollution, long food lines, and children dying from the poor air conditions become the norm. Climate change to such an extreme extent is something many may scoff at and say that it is far in the future, but for people living in cities such as Beijing, China, poor air quality and its stipulations are commonplace.

Beijing, China

A second theme we immediately noticed when developing this podcast and through our reading is the theme of motherhood, which as a presence as strong as climate change. The nuances of this motherhood create an interesting dynamic between Bea and Agnes. In the beginning of the novel when Agnes is about seven, her mother begins to have issues understanding her emotional needs and desires. The height of this misunderstanding eventually turns into pure hatred when Bea leaves the Community to return to the city after her mother has died to tend to her estate. Agnes regards her mother as being dead for the next few years while she is absent. Bea eventually returns, and the hatred Agnes feels for her mother eventually morphs into a type of misunderstood love. At the very end of the novel, when the mother and daughter separate, Agnes begins to understand the decisions of her mother and love her for who she truly is. This is especially true when she “adopts” Fern as her own daughter at the culmination of the plot.

The idea of existentialism is also at the core of this novel. The Community lives with an illusion of independence in the Wilderness, as they are beyond the bounds of confined society in the city, but, in reality, they are caged by the Rangers, who dictate where they go, what they do, how they behave, and other rules that restrict the attaining of any true freedom. While the Community is able to come to consensus on small decisions such as the rationing of food, where to camp, who is to lead, and a general code of conduct, these are minor things in the face of much greater restrictions upheld by the Rangers and the government in the city. The community is presented with just enough freedom to satiate them without them becoming dangerous in their freedom.

Our six minute podcast covers all these themes and more about The New Wilderness. You can listen to it here: https://soundcloud.com/user-165142944/a-pbl-take-cookes-the-new-wilderness.

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11 Responses to A PBL Take: Final Thoughts on Diane Cooke’s New Wilderness

  1. mileshenle says:

    I enjoyed the contrast with this podcast and the one we made. It had that clear set of ideas that each speaker wanted to get across and really digs into them, while our podcast was more of an open discussion with a meandering direction. The psychedelic track at the beginning and end really hooked my interest. Great music choice!

  2. Emma Krasemann says:

    The music choice was excellent and I thought the summary at the beginning was very thorough and easy to follow. It was an excellent analysis of the book in terms of exploring the themes of the struggles of motherhood and the concept of “freewill”. You guys made some really great points. I liked the comparison between the City and cities in India. Nice job!

  3. Emma says:

    Not sure if my other comment went through so here we go with another. Really nice job guys! I really agree with your points on motherhood and Bea’s desire to break through from the constraints of motherhood. Your connection to real world world cities was also extremely interesting to think about, like many things in The New Wilderness. Great music choice too.

  4. Nick Maggi says:

    Great work on your podcast! I really enjoyed the discussion of motherhood and Agnes character progression. I really like how you portrayed Agnes and Bea’s relationship as both characters have issues understanding each other even though deep down they want to help each other.

  5. jennadaly09 says:

    As someone who did not read the book, I especially liked the comparison of the fictional world to the world around us. From what I have heard, it seems like this book points to a lot of warning signs about what could happen environmentally in the near future.

  6. Dan Ennis says:

    You raise some really good points about the main topic of environmentalism in the novel but also themes of motherhood and more obscure themes like existentialism. Great job and maybe I’ll pick up the book myself!

  7. Megan Swanson says:

    You guys did a really great job with this! I like the overall dynamic of the podcast and the fact that you each discussed a specific theme or topic you were interested in. Your ideas were clear and thoughtful. I enjoyed listening and hearing new insights that I hadn’t thought of when I read the novel with my group.

  8. Megan Swanson says:

    You guys did a really great job with this! I like the overall dynamic of the podcast and the fact that you discussed your own individual topic that you were passionate about. Your ideas were clear and thoughtful, and they gave me new insights on the novel.

  9. As someone who read this book, I agree with what you all said about many of the book’s most important aspects like the role of motherhood and the wilderness setting. Your ideas pushed my thinking to another level.

  10. 21pjh says:

    Great job. Your overview and summary at the beginning was complete yet timely. You also touched on the wide range of topics and themes that the book covered from motherhood too environmentalism ver well.

  11. huntertrxn says:

    I really liked how you guys delve into the nuanced discussion of motherhood. It’s incredibly relevant to our society today as we grapple with the intricacies of our familial relationships.

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