Jeff VanderMeer

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Themes and Colors
The Sublime vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Nature, Power, and Persistence Theme Icon
Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation Theme Icon
Objectivity vs. Subjectivity Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Annihilation, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Sublime vs. The Mundane

In Annihilation, four women on a government expedition explore a mysterious wilderness preserve called Area X. The narrator—an unnamed biologist—is inexplicably drawn to the different landmarks and environments in Area X, but the more observations the biologist makes, the less she seems to understand. By book’s end, she recognizes how incomprehensible yet beautiful Area X is, contrasting it with the mundane nature of her life back home. This notion of a world both…

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Nature, Power, and Persistence

Annihilation’s narrator—an unnamed biologist—describes the mysterious Area X as a “pristine wilderness.” By contrast, the world where humans live (outside Area X’s border) has been spoiled. But the biologist’s work and life experiences have taught her about nature’s ability to reclaim human environments, such as an abandoned swimming pool or an empty lot. It seems that nature is actually more powerful than humanity—and Area X is constantly expanding beyond its borders, which seems…

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Self-Reliance, Mistrust, Secrecy, and Isolation

Annihilation’s protagonist—an unnamed biologist—has several crucial relationships in the book: with the other team members on her expedition (the psychologist, surveyor, and anthropologist) and with her husband. Yet the book also depicts how the biologist remains emotionally isolated and self-reliant, which ultimately ends up benefitting her. The other members of her team and the Southern Reach (the government agency that sent her) ultimately prove untrustworthy, having kept a great…

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Objectivity vs. Subjectivity

When the biologist first arrives in Area X, she prizes objectivity. As scientists, she and the other members of the team rely on facts: they collect samples and measurements, which are meant to help them classify Area X’s characteristics. At the same time, the biologist realizes that Area X is skewing their perceptions of the world around them, and the team suddenly disagrees about basic realities: is the passageway that leads to Area X a…

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