Earthseed: The Books of the Living

I believe Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower” to be wonderfully written. The main character, Lauren, is a strong and an ambitious character who shares the horrifyingly realistic story of the dystopian future beginning in the year of 2024 in the first person narrative. This sci-fi novel had the capacity to tackle a plethora of important issues ranging from religion to global warming and the importance of community to the importance of strength within the individual. Starting off mildly slow, this book captivates the reader a few chapters in with whirlwinds of drama and violence.

Even though religion isn’t necessarily a strong aspect of my own life, I always found it to be something very interesting to read about. This book however puts an exciting twist on what the main character Lauren perceived God to be. Being the daughter of a minister, religion is inevitably a strong part of her life, but not in the way that most would think it to be. “My God doesn’t love me or hate me or watch over me or know me at all, and I feel no love for or loyalty to my God. My God just is” (Butler 25). Lauren is an extremely intelligent character and offers readers an untraditional and refreshing twist on religion and God with her Earthseed verses.

The community protected by a wall in which Lauren resides with her family is very reliant on each other. They depend on each other for safety and protection due to the known dangers that lay beyond the wall. The children seem to lose their innocence quickly when they are taught how to handle guns and are constantly wishing to be older than they are. Two characters that portray this type of behavior immensely are Lauren herself and her youngest brother Keith. Lauren, who already seems to be many years beyond her actual age, cannot wait to be eighteen in order to make decisions for herself in which she believes will benefit her survival in this world. Keith, however wants to prove he’s a man to his father and ultimately ends up getting himself killed. Rejecting the strength of community and family and trying to survive in this dystopian world on your own is basically a death sentence.

Lauren is a heroine and a natural born leader. These characteristics truly shine for her once her community is ultimately destroyed and ravaged. Her family being gone, she knows the importance and recruiting people to face the new world with and that’s how her initial group of Harry and Zahra form. They take extreme caution by making the decision to dress Lauren as a boy to make their crew seem stronger with two men and one woman rather than one man and two women. I believe that Lauren’s literacy is what holds her higher than the rest of the people of this time. Lauren and her brothers were viewed as important and valuable due to their ability to read and write. “I heard on National Public Radio that the population of America could be considered about 46% semi-literate. Now that’s scary. This doesn’t mean that 46% of people can’t read – but that 46% have difficulty reading or, at least, some of that 46% have real difficulty reading. Probably they don’t read for fun, and probably they don’t read for information as often as they should, so more than anybody recently in history they must be people who are saying what they hear others say, which is kind of scary” (Butler, “Devil Girl From Mars”).

This new world stricken by the harsh effects of global warming faces constant despair. This includes erratic and dangerous weather along with tornadoes, earthquakes and deadly storms. Water is extremely sparse, making survival more difficult than it already is. Octavia Butler has reasoning for making global warming a strong force in her novel. “A character in the novel is Global-Warming. This is something that I really wanted to pay attention to, and it’s odd how it went in and out of fashion while I was working on the novel. It would be very big and everyone was talking about it and then it would just kind of die, and then all of a sudden it would be big again. And I wonder about that. It seems to me that a thing as important as global-warming should get a lot more attention than it does. So I portray a world in which global-warming is doing things like creating a lot of erratic weather and severe storms and drought in California, and other things like that” (Butler, “Devil Girl From Mars”).

From the piece “Devil Girl From Mars”: Why I Write Science Fiction a reader can understand why Octavia Butler included global warming as a serious protagonist in the novel and why she made the importance of literacy such a prominent factor. Overall, I believe that Parable of the Sower was an exciting and fulfilling read that was able to bring many important issues to light all while being extremely entertaining. I would definitely recommend it to any lover of sci-fi and I hope to come across more books like this in the future.

Works Cited 

  1. Butler, Octavia E. Parable of the Sower. A Four Walls Eight Windows 1st ed. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1993. Print.
  2. Butler, Octavia. “”Devil Girl From Mars”: Why I Write Science Fiction.” MIT Communications Forum. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

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