The Bad Time

By: Jaimie Bartlett

The most known theory about evolution is the Darwinian philosophy of survival of the fittest. What most do not know is that they true meaning has nothing to do with physical fitness. In today’s world the “fittest” are no longer those that are most likely to survive. The more correct form of the phrase would be “survival of the adaptive”. In The Year of the Flood, all of the characters that have survived are still alive because they learned how to adapt to the new environment and new environmental stressors that have been thrust upon them; no matter how bad, gruesome or terrible. Toby adapted to life in many different ways throughout this novel. At first, she adapted to life with a sick mother, then life at school, then and life without both of her parents and even a rough predicament at work. Many others would not have, and did not survive. She was able to adapt and stay strong and therefore, she survived. For instance, her father could not adapt, or thought that he couldn’t, and because of this he killed himself. The only constant in the world is change. Our environment and our world will always be changing and the only way to survive is to learn to adapt. The following found poem demonstrates the numerous situations that Toby was thrust into and she chose to adapt instead of die.


The Bad Time

— Found poem by Jaimie Bartlett, excerpted from The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood, pp. 25, 30, 32, 33, 37, 38, 39, 43, 3, 37, 38, 39, 43, 46, 47.


Her father lost his job, the new one paid less.

Her mother became weak and they all were stressed

Her mother was very ill

She went south even with the pills

The period that followed was a bad time


Her mother passed,

So her father killed himself with a blast.

She hid the evidence and managed to disappear,

She had no money but “they” might still appear.

The period that followed was a bad time


She’d had long hair, it fetched a decent sum

Her eggs sold too and then there were none

She had to make a choice, to live or die

There are quicker ways, so she choose to work but for a bad guy

The period that followed was a bad time


He said, I’m promoting you, say thank you

try to not think about the earlier life, focus on the new

She longed to be back in the past,

She wish she left before he demanded her services at last

The period that followed was a bad time


Then, a strange procession along the street

They were chanting, trying to save her was their feat

They succeeded, “welcome to our garden”

Enveloped in children, fuzzy, soft, intimate, like that of Eden

The period that followed wasn’t such a bad time


She felt she should pay by helping

Because they saved her to keep her from hurting

The gardeners were convinced

The wicked and cruel would cease to exist

The period that followed was a bad time


Toby climbs up to watch the sunrise

Birds chirp

Do they notice that quietness, the absence?

The period that followed was a bad time


Don’t think about the earlier life

She’s prepared.

The doors are locked, the windows barred.

She has learned to survive from previous scars.

The period that followed was a bad time


What happened next?

I guess we’re all still vexed.

Is it still a bad time?


Atwood, Margaret. The Year of the Flood. New York: Random House, 2009. Print.


You Can Let Go

By: Jaimie Bartlett

No other reading has struck me so deeply as, Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road. The raw emotions that come about when you are reading stem from a primal part of the brain. Every situation in this book is riddled with examples of parental investment and sacrifice. While reading these scenes, they hit very close to home reminding me of the close relationship I have with my own father. I could never imagine being in such a situation and having to make the choices that the boy’s father made for him within this novel. Each time I reading a section, I would have this gut feeling of heaviness and sorrow for the characters that almost made me want to just put down the book and never pick it up again.

In The Road, McCarthy paints the picture of a desolate, run down post-apocalyptic world that consists of two sides, the bad guys and the ones that “carry the light”, which includes the two main characters, a young boy and his father. In the novel, the author explains how both the man and his wife birthed the boy into this post-apocalyptic nightmare. In the shining example of parental investment, the boy’s mother chooses to end her own life so that the man and their son will have a better chance of survival. The rest of the text also illustrates parental investment but on the man’s side. Through the challenges and struggles that the two face while following “the road”, the novel illustrates the man’s goal to aid in the survival of his child. Their journey’s destination is to the south in search of warmer weather so that they can make it through the winters. Many nights and days they battle freezing temperatures, exhaustion, lack of food, hypothermia and the “bad guys” who have converted to cannibalism. These “bad guys” are known to kidnap, rape, enslave and eat the weak that they come across.

As the pair go about their travels they have to always be aware of the elements and anyone who they encounter. In some instances, they are forced to run for their lives even when they are very weak from not eating for days. When they are forced to run, the man takes the risk of being slowed down to put his son on his shoulders so that they both can get away from the danger that they faced. For example, on page 66 the man shoots the “bad guy” who is trying to hold the boy hostage and then “picked up the boy … and set him on his shoulders and set off … at a dead run”. There are also times when they come across other “good guys” but his father forces the decision to leave them behind to avoid risking their lives at the expense of another mouth to feed or body to protect. His goal is to keep his child safe and no one else no matter how much the boy pleads to take along the others that they come across. For example, he asks numerous times about a little boy that he thought he saw and if they could go back to help him. Also, around page 164 they run into an old man wondering down the road very slowly and even though the do give him some of their food, the man tells the boy that they can not take him with them by saying, “I know what the question is, the answer is no … [it’s] can we keep him? We can’t”.

When I was reading the directions for this assignment, I immediately thought of a song when I remembered the way that this book made me feel. “You Can Let Go”, by Crystal Shawanda is an absolutely beautiful song but it makes me so upset that many times I have had to turn it off when it came on the radio or my iPod.  It’s one of those songs that you listen to when you really need a good cry. The lyric starts off with the artist talking about her father teaching her to ride a bike. When she got the hang of it she tells him in the chorus of the song, “You can let go now, daddy, you can let go. Oh, I think, I’m ready to do this on my own. It’s still a little bit scary but I want you to know. I’ll be okay now, daddy, you can let go”. It goes on to apply the same theme for her wedding when he is holding her hand and giving her away. The last scenario talks about her father being in the hospital (and this is the part that really gets the tears rolling). The nurse tells her that he is only hanging on for her and she climbs into his bed and tells him that he can let go with the chorus of the song and it is such a gut wrenching lyric and musical combination that most of the time, I have to turn it off or switch the song.

To me, these two works hit the same nail on the head. They are two peas in a pod because of the feeling and mood that they deliver as well as the theme of the lyric, which exemplifies the immensity of the effects of parental investment. This is the time and energy invested by parents in the production of viable offspring (p. 156, The Literary Animal). In each work they give multiple examples of this. In The Road, McCarthy shows how the boy’s father takes every opportunity to teach him important skills and lessons. The author also shows, in many instances, how the man would choose his son’s survival over his own. In “You Can Let Go”, Shawanda explains that her father taught her many things and was there for the important moments in her life. Then, when it was her turn to take the lead, the roles reversed and she helped him to let go and end his suffering. By telling him to let go she is telling him that because of the things he taught her, that she would be ok without him.

At the end of The Road (pg. 278), the man tells his son that he will have to go without him. Alternating between the man and boy, the boy says, “I want to be with you”, “you can’t”, “I don’t know how to”, “yes you do” says the boy’s father. Even though in this scenario the boy does not think that he is ready for his father to go, his father knows that he has taught his son enough to find the “good guys” and he is able to go on without him. On every page in the novel the man is taking care of the boy and seeing that his needs are met first while always showing him how to do it for himself because he knows, as every parent does, that he will not be here forever to protect his child. Eventually, every child will have to use the tools that they have been taught to survive without their caregiver such as described in both, The Road and “You Can Let Go”.

Works Cited

McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Print.

Shawanda, Crystal. “You Can Let Go.” N.p., n.d. Web. 11 July 2014.    <;.

Shawanda, Crystal. You Can Let Go. N.d. YouTube. Web. 11 July 2014.   <;.

Wilson, David Sloan, and Jonathan Gottschall. The Literary Animal : Evolution And       The Nature Of Narrative. Evanston, Ill: Northwestern University Press, 2005.        eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 11 July 2014.