Literary Analysis Essay on The Social Life of DNA

Published: 2023-08-31
Literary Analysis Essay on The Social Life of DNA
Type of paper:  Literature review
Categories:  Literature Biology Medicine Society
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1440 words
12 min read


In Nelson’s book titled, “The Social Life of DNA" he argues that DNA has a significant influence on communities in doing research and test in the medical sector. He further says DNA has become a great tool in matters of reconciliation. The main focus on his book is that the process of creating peace and harmony has greatly involved the use of gene. According to Nelson, activities such as finding the problem and acknowledgement of a joint fracture can be campaigns for state apologies following internecine conflict or the uncovering of political atrocities.

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Geneticists play a significant role in the process of peace creation. Nelson agrees that when they make use of their knowledge in communities that seek peace, they are bio-cultural brokers who bring balance between social life and science. He acknowledges Mary-Claire King as a famous doctor in the field of genes whose journey begins in the mid-1960s. She was against the Vietnam conflicts and the United States attacking Cambodia. According to him, her passion for human justice would make her a pioneer in the humanitarian use of genetic analysis. Her contemporary work in the laboratory led her to uncover the first cancer gene "BRCA 1."

Nelson gives an example of the Las Abuelas, which resulted in the landmark application of emergent genetic technologies. Las Abuelas gathered weekly on Thursday in front of government building demanding the bodies of their children and the living be returned to them, resulted in techniques that will help identify if two or more individuals hare related by blood.

In the application part, Nelson argues that Las Abuelas wanted solid evidence linking them to the children they claimed as theirs; they aimed to see that these children were back to them as they reminded them of their dead ones. They required specific and indisputable proof that grandmother and suppose grandchild were indeed related. King aware of the HLA useful for matching patients needing organ transplant with donors, she compared the HLA of these women and the children through a blood sample test.

In 1984, King and her colleges successfully carried a test and found that the young girl matched 99.8 per cent to that of her paternal grandfather. This evidence compelled the court to demand the return of the girl to her birth family. King and the Las Abuelas had successfully repurposed a technology used for matching organ donors and recipients for a project of familial reunion and sociopolitical recovery.

Nelson argues that peacemaking was between these women and the government concerning child ownership. It was all about the culture of a community healing from political injustices and conflicts. With her knowledge and prowess in genetics, King helped reunite these children with their families. Her work in doing blood samples and matching of HLA of two individuals was a move that has seen many medical doctors in genetics sector using it to match blood samples and in matching organ donors with their respective recipients. He agrees that indeed an organization now known as La Asociation Civil Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo has been heralded as the founding fathers of tools and technologies that are used in the matching of human DNA and running successful organ transplant. Nelson agrees that King’s move saw the reuniting of sons, daughters and grandchildren with their families.

Analysis and Synthesis

This book outlines the basic premise of The Social Life of DNA, applies the geneticist achievement in the laboratory to successfully match HLA between different people to find out if they are related or not.

This book is intended to assist learners in understanding the history of DNA testing, the logic behind HLA and organ transplant and genetic relation between the same family members. Also, from the book, the doctors can understand human bodies better, form the basis of gene research and understand the mutation process of genes.

Further, the book highlights the life of Mary king, her education and her association with the Las Abuelas. The basic understanding is the involvement of King in the first successful matching of HLA between grandchild and grandfather through blood sampling. When this book is understood well, each detail provides a better understanding of human genes. It equips this book reader’s with knowledge on the social life of the DNA as Nelson has described above.

Internal and External Criteria

Since we have already identified the thesis of this book, it is fair to say that the author discusses his ideas, with relevant examples and explanations. I believe he makes certain from the beginning what his intentions are for writing this book. Nelson outlines how Mary-Clare King began her studies when she graduated attaining her first degree, how she attained her PhD. My point of view is that the author has clearly and vividly explained what led to the discovery of HLA technology and how the first successful DNA was matched.

I think it is fair to say Nelson is an excellent writer in that the level of interpretive skills he has are high. Making us understand the formation of Las Abuelas, all they did and their motive in such few words is exemplary. He outlines the steps followed and what led to King's involvement with the Las Abuelas. In my opinion, the author has done an excellent job in making us understand the role of geneticists as a bridge between scientific and sociopolitical spheres. However, I don't support his idea on how he has exposed the government in terms of abducting, killing and detaining people. For instance, where he narrates the case of Laura, who he says was abducted by government officials and placed in a detention centre and to worsen the situation she was pregnant. A year later, she gives birth, and after that, she is killed by her captors. I think this is defaming the government's name, which I'm afraid I have to disagree with.

I believe he has done excellent work in making us understand our genes through this book. His writing through his character King, he describes how King worked hard in the laboratory until she came up with the first gene of cancer. I must say it is a good piece of work. I think this book has both good and bad effects on its writers. The sound effect is that as its reader, it has made me understand my body that is through the genes as the author has done in this book. It has a positive impact on the readers thinking thus influencing his view toward the DNA and blood testing approach. The adverse effect is that I think it has made some of its readers have a terrible view and assumption about the government. I will say this based on the part where the author has made us understand what the government used to do to people in the past. All the missing persons, dead bodies being found a few days after a persons' untimely disappearance.

I will say that Nelson has written his work well. The author gives a better understanding and puts more emphasis on the relevancy of a statement. The way he describes the flow of events, the life history of a person is just incredible. It is fair to say that I fully agree with this author's content and work. I think Nelson makes a good impression of Mary-Clare King. He has shown and explained her life, educational life and her success in the medical field. He has achieved this through his photographic skill. He has shown the success and achievements of women in society.

My point of view is that the author has depicted women as successful than men in this book. The book is female-dominated; the characters mostly used here are also women. The mention of male characters here is very few, countable. I think the part where the author speaks of the Las Abuelas requiring specific and indisputable proof that a grandmother and supposed grandchild were indeed related is quite touching. This part has made me see the pain those families were undergoing, missing their children and grandchildren. It is entirely emotional and touching. The author has addressed the woes of the Las Abuelas quite well.


In conclusion, the book is exciting and employs a distinctive style of writing which is informative. The authors use genetics to testing explain the basis of the DNA and its impact on society as testing in seemingly more weighty sectors like medicine. The content of the book is well written, and its flow is accessible and understandable.


Nelson, A. (2016). The social life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and reconciliation after the genome (pp. 27-42). Boston: Beacon Press.

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