"The Orchid Theif" by Susan Orlean

Essay by emmeg23High School, 11th grade April 2006

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"In 1994, I headed down to Florida to investigate the story of John Laroche...I never imagined that I would end up spending the next two years shadowing Laroche and exploring the odd, passionate world of orchid fanatics. I certainly never imagined that I would willingly hike through the swamps of South Florida..." Susan Orlean writes about her time in Florida hunting rare orchids in this non-fiction book that takes us from an objective to a subjective view, as Orlean finds out what it means to be truly passionate about something, and feel free; The Orchid Thief. (susanorlean.com)

The Orchid Thief, though, is often described as "literary non-fiction." Dictionary.com describes literary as "Versed in or fond of literature or learning1, Bookish; pedantic2." Though I agree that it is non-fiction, I don't agree with the use of the term literary. On the contrary, I think that this book is quite straight-forward.

In my opinion, this book appears as "beefed-up," if you will, chronology of events of two years of a woman's life.

On the matter of Orleans subjective tone; she went to Florida to "investigate," her motives purely objective, and the novel begins just so, but she finds herself slowly pulled into a world where trivial lunacy triumphs, until she captivated, not by orchids, enchanting as they are, but by an astonishing unusual way of life. Orleans goes in with and objective mind-set but her stance changes from a subjective one over the course of her time spent in Florida and with Laroche.

"More and more," she writes, "I felt that I was meeting people . . . who didn't at all seem part of this modern world and this moment in time--the world of petty aggravations and obligations and boundaries, a time of bored cynicism--because how they lived and...