Good evening folks! I just came in from an interesting discussion of this month’s book. As you can see from the picture on the left, we were talking about Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler. The late author crafted a novel depicting a family of color attempting to survive a dark future plagued with social disorder and violence. Set in the mid 2020’s, Parable illustrates what can only be described as a state of anarchy. In this unrecognizable America, we see things from the vantage point of Lauren Olamina, a teenage girl.
Much science fiction, literary or large screen, has an element of social commentary in it. The idea of a future society is a convenient place to write freely about what is, and many authors choose to weave in cautionary tales along with their vision of the future. This novel is one such piece. Butler depicts a world, not too radically different from our own, but with plausible and possible dangers due to social decay. Using the issues faced by the protagonist, we had our discussion around the themes in the book.
Amongst the strongest themes discussed were the concept of the future itself. Whether it is a forgone conclusion that life is supposed to get better as the years on the calendar go by. The concept of dystopia turns that notion on its head, and disabuses us all of the notion of progress and the march of history. It lines up with historical fact that there are periods of regression where things actually go backwards, and we all spoke in one way or another about what that means. Also a major thread in the conversation was what defines poverty, in comparison to the depictions of the book. Butler’s depiction of American poverty in the future is jarring, and it resembles the reality of the developing world.
And finally, the question of Personal Responsibility vs. Community was a great piece of the discussion. In talking about the future depicted in Parable of a government that was unable to keep order, various points were made about the role of it in relation to those in the rest of the community. There is much to this book, and will kick off discussion in myriad different ways depending upon what one chooses to focus on. This post was inspired not so much with the intent to review the book, but to get at what it can spark in terms of ideas of what our world should be like. Are we doomed to face a future with people having less and less? Can we reverse the destructive and anti-people, pro-selfishness course we are on as a society? Must we be ensnared by this notion that the best way to proceed for everyone is a non-stop policy of social divestment? Only time, and our collective actions will tell. In tackling all of these issues, Butler leaves us with a powerful cautionary tale worthy of wide readership and a film adaptation (I hope)
R.I.P. Octavia E. Butler
1. In the future, do you think poverty will be defined by not having a cell phone, or living conditions(not able to afford an education)?
2.Faith drives Lauren, but her beliefs are different from those around her. Do you think that people must believe as you believe in order to lead them?
-Marc W. Polite
P.S. To find out more about the concept of dystopia, visit Exploring Dystopia
My past post about Afro-Futurism