The character of Olivia is one I like to refer to as culturally complex, because how you perceive her depends on your cultural biases. She elicits strong emotions in some because she gave up her children to fight for peace. They loved her strength as a woman, as an independent voice who gave up everything to fight for her ideals. But they also wanted her to be a loving, nurturing mother figure. Some were angry she was not. How can you make her so indifferent to her own children?
Because Olivia doesn’t speak just for herself. Every day women around the world are separated from their children through incarceration, poverty, homelessness, and violence. Olivia represents those women. Her choices may seem cruel to those on the outside looking in, but many women face the same choices everyday and many choose the only selfless option, the one Olivia chose.
“She told him about the children’s camp outside the prison, the village of piecemeal huts where food was scarce, the water toxic, and disease rampant. She described how the children waited for their mothers to finish serving their sentences, because they had nowhere else to go, no one to care for them. He still saw the piercing glare of her black eyes, the demand that he see her choice through her eyes, not his own. I didn’t give you up. I saved your life.”
Characters, like people, are multidimensional. Olivia’s relationship with Sam is simple and uncomplicated, but it shows another side of PeaceTown’s pragmatic leader, and the reclusive artist. Through each other they explain the powerful hold of inspired purpose. Like all those passionately committed to their causes, neither Sam nor Olivia could be anyone other than who they are.
But they connect because they are both driven by separate paths to the same destination; Olivia in her fight for peace, and Sam in the use of his art to bring awareness to war’s destruction of nature. They understand this passion in each other and therefore they understand each other. When you strip away their outer identities, Sam and Olivia are the same. It’s what allows them to eventually develop a rich and satisfying friendship.
In many ways Olivia is the anti-goddess. Although she possesses the required strengths of power such as assertiveness, independence, and intelligence, she is not an icon for any one person or group. She is more like a military officer in charge of her own army, commanding respect but rarely love or affection. She is like the book that brought her fame, The Art of Peace, often described as a work everyone quoted but few read. That also describes Olivia.
Kate Taylor’s Books and Art Ursine Logic