Importance of humility

September 20, 2020

In her new book, Jenny Offil writes about a family in crisis, climate change and political uncertainty

The novel, Weather by Jenny Offill, encapsulates the life of a woman who plays multiple roles in society. The narrator of Weather Lizzie Benson plays the roles of a wife, mother and working woman beautifully. She is socially well-versed and theorises her life and the way she copes with the problems she faces every day.

The novel takes the readers on a delightful journey by incorporating proverbs and fables from various cultures. Offil keeps moving back and forth from one culture to another, one place to another, one region to another and signifies what made those cultures popular in the world.

She splits people into two poles on the basis of their work habits. People belonging to the first pole are workers by nature and people who belong to the second pole run away from work. Lizzie constantly tries to juggle her responsibilities so much so that she often loses herself amongst them. She belongs to the first pole.

Offill writes that if humans can be bioengineered, they should be fitted with cat eyes, as according to researchers and scientists, you can see in a much better manner with cat-eyes. She suggests that it’s a good way to “have the use of global energy considerably”.

Lizzie’s brother represents the other pole; that is, people who do not mind throwing their lives away for momentary joy. They are cannibals who consume themselves due to their self-destructive ways. She thinks such people should be rehabilitated and helped instead of being shunned by society. She does not dismiss the idea of the use of drugs but does condemn ‘dependence’ on drugs.

Loneliness is also one of the dominant themes of Weather. Lizzie finds a journal filled with studies about loneliness and how to combat it. “Hunt et al. (1992) found that a woman sitting in a park received significantly more social approaches from passers-by whenever she was accompanied by a rabbit or turtle, than when she sat alone with a television set or blowing bubbles” P. 79. She states that when you are lonely you start losing words. You speak incomplete sentences. She thinks that while loneliness can cause depression, it cannot bring about social enlightenment.

She emphasises planning suggesting that one should, “Plan before disaster strikes”. She says that one should look for fire exits in the hotel, carry a life jacket when one is on a ferry and read the card when one is on a plane. If one does not have such plans, one can lose one’s bearings quickly and easily.

Mythical elements also make their appearance in the novel, for example, demons that are controlled by Father Dear. In one scene Father Dear asks them about how they can be overcome.

“What power send you away then?”

“Nothing can overcome us except humility.” The demons reply.

Jenny Offill is the author of the three acclaimed novels, Last Things, Dept of Speculation and Weather and is a prolific writer.


Author: Jenny Offill

Publisher: Knopf, 2020

Pages: 100

Price: US$11.99 (Kindle)

The writer is currently pursuing his PhD in English literature

Importance of humility