Perspectives on Migration: A Look At Ruth Padel’s “The Mara Crossing”

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In Ruth Padel’s The Mara Crossing, there was a variety of perspectives that could be found that are represented in historical, geographical, and scientific context.  The first perspective that I feel is presented in the reading, is religious influence on migration.  For example; in the first chapter, “Migration Made the World,” Padel states that, “…We were put in a garden.  But that went wrong and now we are wanderers between two worlds…” (2)  This refers to the climax of the story of Adam and Eve and how they were exiled from the paradise known as The Garden of Eden for Eve’s picking of the forbidden fruit.  Also, I thought it was interesting that in that same chapter I was introduced to a more scientific approach, as well as religious approach, to the roots of migration.

The chapter goes on to discuss the development of cells, how they are the basic units of life and how cells are what make up every living organism on this Earth.  This of course being the scientific definition known as “Cell Theory.” Another approach that is taking in discussing migration is on the side of the zoological as well.  In the chapter, “There is Always a River,” Padel seems mentally drawn to Africa and the Serengeti when she talks about the struggles for survival in what is referred to as “…the greatest migration of mammals on the planet.” (99)  This is the wildebeest migration; in which 1.5 million wildebeest, and 350,000 zebras and gazelles try to go through the obstacles of crocodiles, poisonous insects, lions, hyenas, jackals and cheetahs all for the goal of not thriving but surviving. it’s all part of getting to their final destination, the Mara river.

The next approach was the references to all of the different civilizations mentioned throughout the book.  From the discussion on the Greek philosophies of the river’s importance in symbolism (i.e., the River Styx); to the discussion of the Masai tribes in Kenya, there is a great diversity of different ancient cultures represented in the topic of migration. So whether it is the geographic region, the scientific and/or religious philosophies, or just the overall significance of the river on both humans and wild animals, one concept is clear. Migration is what helps keep us and all other organisms alive from the tiniest Monarch Butterfly, to the largest wildebeest, to the smartest and bravest Masai warrior we all play a role in this process and it’s progress.  And Ruth Padel’s “The Mara Crossing” is a perfect example of how that influences the reader and the author.

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One thought on “Perspectives on Migration: A Look At Ruth Padel’s “The Mara Crossing”

  1. Jared, good post! I liked your reference to the impact of migration on all life forms on Earth. I found it to be a good summary of what Padel was trying to say: “Migration is what helps keep us and all other organisms alive from the tiniest Monarch Butterfly, to the largest wildebeest, to the smartest and bravest Masai warrior we all play a role in this process and it’s progress.”

    Your interpretation of the author’s approach to linking science and religion referencing the Garden of Eden was very interesting as well, especially when you mention the roots of migration. The garden exile could be seen as a religious metaphor for all subsequent human and animal migration.

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