Annihilation

by

Jeff VanderMeer

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The Biologist’s Husband Character Analysis

The biologist’s husband was a medic on the eleventh expedition. Prior to his leaving for the expedition, the biologist and her husband struggled in their relationship, because she was very reserved and he was very outgoing, and he often felt that she put up emotional walls against him. She disliked that he was going on the expedition, but she did not realize that it was likely that he was being hypnotized during his interviews to convince him to go to Area X. When he suddenly returned from Area X, she found that he was reserved and somber and had memory issues: he had no recollection of crossing the border, nor did he remember much of the expedition itself. The biologist then called the authorities and he spent the final six months of his life in an observation facility until he died of cancer. After his death, the biologist is determined to go to Area X, in part to discover what really happened to her husband there. In Area X, she finds her husband’s journal, most of which is addressed to the biologist, to her surprise. She realizes while reading it that her husband in fact did not leave Area X and that he decided to try to take a boat up the coast. He also observed a doppelgänger of himself in the Area, whom the biologist suspects is the person who appeared in her home. She also realizes, reading his accounts, that he had a much deeper inner life than she suspected and wishes that she hadn’t shut him out as much as she did. At the end, after reading his account, the biologist sets out to try to find out what happened to her husband rather than trying to return home.

The Biologist’s Husband Quotes in Annihilation

The Annihilation quotes below are all either spoken by The Biologist’s Husband or refer to The Biologist’s Husband. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Farrar Straus & Giroux edition of Annihilation published in 2014.
Chapter 1 Quotes

At first, only I saw it as a tower. I don’t know why the word tower came to me, given that it tunneled into the ground. I could as easily have considered it a bunker or a submerged building. Yet as soon as I saw the staircase, I remembered the lighthouse on the coast and had a sudden vision of the last expedition drifting off, one by one, and sometime thereafter the ground shifting in a uniform and preplanned way to leave the lighthouse standing where it had always been but depositing this underground part of it inland. I saw this in vast and intricate detail as we all stood there, and, looking back, I mark it as the first irrational thought I had once we had reached our destination.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

I know this information might not be hard for anyone to find out, but I have hoped that in reading this account, you might find me a credible, objective witness. Not someone who volunteered for Area X because of some other event unconnected to the purpose of the expeditions. And, in a sense, this is still true, and my husband’s status as a member of an expedition is in many ways irrelevant to why I signed up.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband, The Surveyor
Related Symbols: The Tower/The Tunnel
Page Number: 55-56
Explanation and Analysis:

At first, I must have seemed mysterious to him, my guardedness, my need to be alone, even after he thought he’d gotten inside my defenses. Either I was a puzzle to be solved or he just thought that once he got to know me better, he could still break through to some other place, some core where another person lived inside of me. During one of our fights, he admitted as much—tried to make his “volunteering” for the expedition a sign of how much I had pushed him away, before taking it back later, ashamed. I told him point-blank, so there would be no mistake: This person he wanted to know better did not exist; I was who I seemed to be from the outside. That would never change.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband, The Psychologist
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

This was really the only thing I discovered in him after his return: a deep and unending solitude, as if he had been granted a gift that he didn’t know what to do with. A gift that was poison to him and eventually killed him. But would it have killed me? That was the question that crept into my mind even as I stared into his eyes those last few times, willing myself to know his thoughts and failing.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

Then the dolphins breached, and it was almost as vivid a dislocation as that first descent into the Tower. I knew that the dolphins here sometimes ventured in from the sea, had adapted to the freshwater. But when the mind expects a certain range of possibilities, any explanation that falls outside of that expectation can surprise. Then something more wrenching occurred. As they slid by, the nearest one rolled slightly to the side, and it stared at me with an eye that did not, in that brief flash, resemble a dolphin eye to me. It was painfully human, almost familiar. In an instant that glimpse was gone and they had submerged again, and I had no way to verify what I had seen. I stood there, watched those twinned lines disappear up the canal, back toward the deserted village. I had the unsettling thought that the natural world around me had become a kind of camouflage.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband
Related Symbols: The Tower/The Tunnel
Page Number: 97-98
Explanation and Analysis:

But fun for me was sneaking off to peer into a tidal pool, to grasp the intricacies of the creatures that lived there. Sustenance for me was tied to ecosystem and habitat, orgasm the sudden realization of the interconnectivity of living things. Observation had always meant more to me than interaction. He knew all of this, I think. But I never could express myself that well to him, although I did try, and he did listen. And yet, I was nothing but expression in other ways. My sole gift or talent, I believe now, was that places could impress themselves upon me, and I could become a part of them with ease. Even a bar was a type of ecosystem, if a crude one, and to someone entering, someone without my husband’s agenda, that person could have seen me sitting there and had no trouble imagining that I was happy in my little bubble of silence. Would have had no trouble believing I fit in.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

“How many of your memories do you think are implanted?” the psychologist asked. “How many of your memories of the world beyond the border are verifiable?”

“That won’t work on me,” I told her. “I am sure of the here and now, this moment, and the next. I am sure of my past.” That was ghost bird’s castle keep, and it was inviolate. It might have been punctured by the hypnosis during training, but it had not been breached. Of this I was certain, and would continue to be certain, because I had no choice.

Related Characters: The Psychologist (speaker), The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband
Page Number: 126-127
Explanation and Analysis:

Cleaning up a little later, a fit of laughter came out of nowhere and made me double up in pain. I had suddenly remembered doing the dishes after dinner the night my husband had come back from across the border. I could distinctly recall wiping the spaghetti and chicken scraps from a plate and wondering with a kind of bewilderment how such a mundane act could coexist with the mystery of his reappearance.

Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

I didn’t tell my husband my walk had a destination because I wanted to keep the lot for myself. There are so many things couples do from habit and because they are expected to, and I didn’t mind those rituals. Sometimes I even enjoyed them. But I needed to be selfish about that patch of urban wilderness. It expanded in my mind while I was at work, calmed me, gave me a series of miniature dramas to look forward to. I didn’t know that while I was applying this Band-Aid to my need to be unconfined, my husband was dreaming of Area X and much greater open spaces.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:

There were thousands of “dead” spaces like the lot I had observed, thousands of transitional environments that no one saw, that had been rendered invisible because they were not “of use.” Anything could inhabit them for a time without anyone noticing. We had come to think of the border as this monolithic invisible wall, but if members of the eleventh expedition had been able to return without our noticing, couldn’t other things have already gotten through?

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband, The Psychologist
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:

Slowly, painfully, I realized what I had been reading from the very first words of his journal. My husband had had an inner life that went beyond his gregarious exterior, and if I had known enough to let him inside my guard, I might have understood this fact. Except I hadn’t, of course. I had let tidal pools and fungi that could devour plastic inside my guard, but not him. Of all the aspects of the journal, this ate at me the most. He had created his share of our problems—by pushing me too hard, by wanting too much, by trying to see something in me that didn’t exist. But I could have met him partway and retained my sovereignty. And now it was too late.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

I plan to continue on into Area X, to go as far as I can before it is too late. I will follow my husband up the coast, up past the island, even. I don’t believe I’ll find him—I don’t need to find him—but I want to see what he saw. I want to feel him close, as if he is in the room. And, if I’m honest, I can’t shake the sense that he is still here, somewhere, even if utterly transformed—in the eye of a dolphin, in the touch of an uprising of moss, anywhere and everywhere. Perhaps I’ll even find a boat abandoned on a deserted beach, if I’m lucky, and some sign of what happened next. I could be content with just that, even knowing what I know.

Related Characters: The Biologist (speaker), The Biologist’s Husband
Page Number: 194-195
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Biologist’s Husband Character Timeline in Annihilation

The timeline below shows where the character The Biologist’s Husband appears in Annihilation. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
...second and third expeditions did not return, and subsequent expeditions had varying success. The biologist’s husband was on the 11th expedition as a medic. He was recruited by a friend, and... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
About a year after the biologist’s husband left for the expedition, she lay alone in bed at night when she heard a... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
After talking, the biologist helped her husband shower and change before they had sex, and she realized that he only vaguely remembered... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
...biologist and surveyor continue to descend into the darkness, and the biologist wonders if her husband took the same journey or saw something completely different. The path of slime grows thicker,... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
...to say that they might not really make it back—they might be amnesic, like her husband was. (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
The final weeks before the expedition, the biologist and her husband argued violently. She shoved him and threw things at him to break his resolve, hoping... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
Once, the biologist told her husband about the pool, which made him think there were more revelations to come. He said... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
The biologist brought up none of their arguments when her husband returned from his expedition, knowing that their time together was likely running out. He was... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
After a nap, the biologist realized that her husband had left their bed. She panicked, eventually finding him on the side of the house,... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
After dinner, men came for the biologist’s husband in unmarked cars with a surveillance van. They approached him with watchful gentleness, like he... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
The biologist later visited her husband in the observation facility, where he had little to say except to express a deep... (full context)
Chapter 3
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
...friends either, except in the local pub. This was four years before she met her husband. (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
At some point during their relationship, the biologist’s husband started calling her the “ghost bird,” as a way of teasing her for not being... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
The journals confront the biologist with her husband’s death all over again, knowing his account is likely there. Once, he asked her if... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
...effort, climbing to the top of a pile to find more recent journals, including her husband’s. She dreads it, feeling as though she’s stealing a private diary, even though she knows... (full context)
Chapter 4
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
...for vacations by the beach). The psychologist also asked about the biologist’s relationship with her husband, which she did not answer. The sessions frustrated the psychologist, but on another level, she... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
...from the first expedition is disturbing. The biologist asks what the psychologist knows about her husband, and the psychologist says his journal was very insightful—especially about the biologist. (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
The biologist’s husband’s life was defined by nightmares he had as a child—nightmares about awful crimes in the... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
Then, the night the biologist’s husband told her he was joining the expedition, he told her about dreams he had, swimming... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
As the biologist stands beside the psychologist’s body, she knows that her husband’s journal will reveal the real nightmares he encountered in Area X. She still blames him... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
...lighthouse, she felt a fever overtake her, making her feel faint and also heavy. Her husband would have been more proactive about fighting the brightness, but she knows that any attempt... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
...fallen branches. As the biologist cleans up the camp, she laughs, remembering the night her husband reappeared in her home. She remembers wiping spaghetti and chicken from a plate and wondering... (full context)
Chapter 5
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
The biologist never enjoyed cities, even though she lived in one because her husband needed to be there. She hated the dirt, the grit, the crowdedness, the light obscuring... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
...that the anthropologist took from the Crawler. After this, the biologist finally picks up her husband’s journal as the brightness washes over her, connecting her to the earth, the water, the... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
Most of the biologist’s husband’s journal entries are addressed to her, which makes her feel intensely guilty and grief-stricken. The... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
The 11th expedition discovered the Tower on the fifth or sixth day, and the biologist’s husband was very hesitant to venture down into it, because he had claustrophobia. Instead, they explore... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
...the lighthouse while the linguist and the biologist went back to the Tower. The biologist’s husband and the surveyor continued past the lighthouse. The next few entries exhibit a kind of... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
...trip to the lighthouse took four days rather than seven. At the lighthouse, the biologist’s husband and the surveyor found the remnants of a shootout between the psychologist and the archaeologist,... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
The biologist’s husband and the surveyor then returned to the Tower, but they only went down a few... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
The surveyor and the biologist’s husband returned to the Tower at dusk, where they saw seven members of the 11th expedition... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
Slowly, the biologist’s husband shook off this ghostly feeling, but he and the surveyor argued about what to do... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
Interspersed with the biologist’s husband’s account of what happened were more personal observations, most of which the biologist doesn’t want... (full context)
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
The biologist’s husband had many observations and photographs of the nature around him, which the biologist knows he... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
...is an illusion. She stops thinking about the starfish and instead starts thinking about her husband’s journal—the image of him somewhere in a boat, somewhere in the north. Everything lies above... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
The biologist never dreamed before Area X, which the biologist’s husband found strange. The week before he left, he joked that maybe this meant that she... (full context)
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
The biologist’s husband then asked her for a favor—a selfish thing to ask. He asked her to come... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
...She spends four days writing this account and plans to leave the materials with her husband’s journal close to the trapdoor. She replaces the lighthouse keeper’s photograph, along with a second... (full context)
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
The biologist decides to follow her husband’s journey as far as she can. She doesn’t believe she’ll find him, but she wants... (full context)