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Into the Forest by Jean Hegland

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Into the Forest

Into the Forest, by Jean Hegland, is a sensible, yet poetic story of two sisters survival in a post-apocalyptic world. The story is told through the older sister Nell's point of view through the details of her journal entries, which reveals the breakdown of their relationships, themselves and the world around them. The two sisters have grown up in their families' house, in the Northern California Redwood forest, far removed from town where they were homeschooled by their mother. Their father, a school principle, encourages the girls to develop their unconventional education and find their own passions, interests and skill sets from their mother and their experiences in the small cabin in the woods. Nell aspires to be a Harvard graduate, and her younger sister, Eva, is determined to be a noted ballerina. The story quickly develops with a steady deteriorating society as the world begins to shut down, and so does their family. The mother tragically dies during a short battle with cancer, and soon after the father is killed in a freak accident in the woods with his own chainsaw. When the only male figure is no longer present in their lives, there is a fundamental shift in the feminist foundation described in the struggle of two women left alone in their families broken home in the woods while the world collapses around them. Their roles have been reshaped to as those not typical of teenage girls. They begin to assume the roles of parent, protector and provider in a world where only the two exsit.

The narrative reveals the stories of challenges and new found roles and abilities that two women inherit when life abandons them. Nell's obsession with academic studies, soon turn from memorizing a set of encyclopedias, in alphabetical order, to a self-discovery of her own knowledge. Her knowledge instinctually led her to the patriarchic roles of the family of this story. Eva's continual and relentless efforts to perfect her girlish ballerina skills suddenly falls apart as her life is forced to forge forward with new found skills, changing her from girl to woman in a flash. Having no one but each other, the girls have to relay on their sisters strengths and support for survival.

Feminine exploration and discovery presents itself throughout the story with the girls' own experiences with their bodies and their sexuality. When Nell comes to the realization that the world is falling apart, she desperately seeks out a boyfriend in hopes that she would be swept away and taken care of, replacing all the worldly confusion with the comfort of a man's love. "Sometimes, I wonder if someone will ever come for me, if there will ever be a boy - a man - for me to open to...I yearn for someone to claim what I long to give" (Hegland 60). This passage describes Nell's strong desire to give herself, her power and her virginity to a man that she can escape with. She is looking for a savior that can make her feel like a woman, in a world that is disappearing before her eyes.

After the loss of their father, the girls are entirely isolated from any other person until her boy crush suddenly comes to find her in a desperate attempt to venture for new life out east. During Elis' visit, Nell draws a new picture of salvation and new life, and loses her virginity to Eli in the secret tree stump hideout of her childhood. Choosing a safe place allowed Nell to still feel protected in an uncertain circumstance. She desired the love and comfort of a boyfriend and hoped that Eli would whisk her pain away. After "fumbling" through their love making, Nell found no escape from her torture of sadness. The author paints a picture of Nell's reaction after her first sexual experience with Eli. "I opened my eyes, looked up through the stump to the sky beyond the braid of branches, and it seemed I could hear the sap rising through the ghostly wood" (Hegland 121). Nell realizes there is no escaping the ghosts that haunt her in those woods: The nightmares of her father buried in those woods, the memories of her and her sister frolicking through those woods. Those were all gone now. Her relationship with her sister was growing apart and Nell began to resent the roles she was forced to endure and agrees to run away with Eli, leaving her Eva behind. Within hours she cannot live with her decision and runs back to her sister to protect



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