The class blog for a section of Literature and the Contemporary, a literature and writing class offered at the University of Pittsburgh.
In the final chapter of Parable of the Sower, Olamina and her following have decided to take up residence at Bankole’s sister’s home. The story concludes with the statement on Page 328, “Then we planted our dead and we planted oak trees. Afterward, we sat together and talked and ate a meal and decided to call this place Acorn.” And at the very end there is a passage from the Bible on Page 328-9, “A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And others fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bore fruit an hundredfold.” I believe that these statements reference not only the obvious, which is the ‘building up’ of humanity, but that it also can reference the eventual destruction of it as well. In Chapter 14, page 153, the Earthseed passage, “In order to rise from its own ashes, a phoenix first must burn”, draws parallels from the above Bible passage in that there are going to be tough times and not everything in life is going to be easy, but for true redemption, one must first go through the trials in order to later flourish and succeed. It also provides the imagery as something that is small, like the acorn that they name their compound after, that later flourishes and becomes strong and mighty like a great oak tree as they build their life on top of the ashes of those who have died as a phoenix rising. The alternative view that I also found with this is that it also predicts the eventual destruction of the compound as well, which may be farfetched, but just by the naming the site Acorn is what led me to believe that it will all end in fire and though perhaps humanity will survive, this group would not. The reason that I found was that Olamina has had acorn grain all her life to make acorn bread which reminds her of home in thanks part to her family who made it and had the knowledge to teach her about it and also the ancient oak tree that was in the gated community that helped provide sustenance. Early in the story, the real beginning of the end was when Olamina seen her oak tree on fire and the imagery of her family life ended in that scene. By naming the existing compound Acorn on top of the burned ruins of Bankole’s sister’s home I felt helped to solidify that alternate view.
So of course we were expecting Lauren to meet up with more Sharers/Feelers. I missed the cues that told her that Mora and Emery were sharers though, so could we point them out in class? I found it interesting that Mora took his Sharing in such a different turn than Lauren or even Emery. In the beginning we had talked about a world of (or community of) sharers and how these people would be nicer, less prone to violence, etc. And yet Mora is a very distant guy. Its not like he is violent, but he doesn't try to be exceptionally kind or even kind much at all. When Lauren stumbles he makes no move to help her (however this could also be taken that he knew she was faking it, since she cannot fool him with her pain as she can fool Emery). If in fact there was a community of sharers, we at least know that there are many different styles of carrying this. Its also just as arguable that a community of Sharers wouldn't be any more cohesive than a community of non-sharers although there is still the possibility of the opposite. Does anyone else find it weird that an 18 year old and a 57 year old are intimate? I mean I can see Lauren is wise beyond her years, but I still cannot imagine her to be quite that wise.. In making Bankole so old (versus having him be like 30, which would be plausible..or even like 40) it makes Lauren appear almost saintly. If this 18 year old is changing the world and is with this almost 60 year old man, it seems like she is similar to a christ figure. Christ provides miracles while Lauren provides unity..but both equate to hope and acting in better ways. Both propagate hope of future generations, preach a set of beliefs, inspire to act kind to thy neighbor, and have people work together.. This is one of the reasons I could see Butler making Bankole so old. For if Lauren was in fact with a 30 or 40 year old than it wouldn't seem that unnatural. It's not only closer in age, but also closer within places in their lives. Bankole is old enough for grandchildren, whereas a 30 or 40 year old man would not be. In addition its more likely that a 60 year old man would have all of that land and be a doctor..although no impssoible at all...and his doctoring skills didn't play too big a part in the novel, but it is ironic that he is with a Sharer, and convenient when they get hurt the few times he helps.
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After reading these last ending chapters of Parable of the Sower, I began to put together some developing themes that seemed to reoccurring throughout the novel. For example, the theme of slavery seen by Emery’s corporation, her mishap made the company she once worked for become owner of not only her, but also her debt. In addition, fear of debt seemed to be a continuous and common theme throughout this novel when Harry and Lauren were becoming increasingly concerned for Olivar and that it would soon happen to him as well. Another theme that appeared to be developing and adding members to its cause was that of a complete racially mixed group: Meaning the major minorities, Asian, Hispanic, and African-American. Most importantly however, the children seemed to be binding factor between the groups of people, specifically the adults, together: The black mother and the Japanese father. And finally, the theme of increasing cares of one another, not only within the group, but also out of it – to the “newcomers”. At first not likely to help a so-called “newcomer”, Lauren soon found herself offering food to these people without even at first really knowing them. More examples of this theme can be seen by rereading the quote, “I dug sweet pears out of my pack, and took one each to the woman and the girl. I had just bought them two days before, and I had only three left. Other people got the idea and began sharing what they could spare. Shelled walnuts, apples, a pomegranate, Valencia oranges, figs. . . . little things.” (Ch. 23) I believe that even though Harry was upset by this and believes that Lauren being to nice and comforting is a fault, it is actually him that is mistaken because these values of compassion and group will inevitably help the earth seed community flourish and become more stable with the years to come.
As random as this sounds, the last part of Parable of The Sower reminded me of the computer game Oregon Trail that I played as a child. The group had to rely & completely trust one another to survive. I also think the last portion of the book was about renewel & second chances. Allie, whose child was brutally murdered by her father, was given the second chance at being a mother by taking care of Justin. Lauren was also able to see each member of her deceased family in the people she was traveling with. Each person of the makeshift "family" reminded Lauren of someone she had lost. Mora reminded her of her brother Keith, Bankole was similar to her father, Nativitad was similar to her step mom Cory, and her Travis reminded her of her lost love Curtis.Bankole's land also served as a safe haven to the outside world, thought that was not the case when the group arrived. I definitely want to read the sequel novel to see how the group fares in their new surroundings.
I really enjoyed this book. The second half was not more suspenseful than the first and I never knew what was going to happen next. This book is really a book that in the beginning shows a community needs to help each other out and then we learn that really it's every man for himself. Trust was always an issue as well as people not pulling their weight. The group would never accept any newcomers unless they truly believed that they would be beneficial. I agree that there definitely are reoccurring themes throughout the book and a common thread of survival and how to do it shows from start to end. This book is both about miracles in a harsh world and the fight to live and stand up for those you trust.
The end of the Parable of the Sower brought many interesting concepts to light. The one that I found the most interesting was the commentary on slavery which occurred after Lauren’s troop decides to included Emery, Grayson and their daughters. Lauren describes their stories, telling us that each of them were slaves. It is later discovered that they are sharers like Lauren. These people were enslaved because of their hyperempathy. What is so interesting about slavery in the 21st century is that it is coming out of social and structural collapse as opposed to the 17th and 18th centuries when America was becoming a nation. The work done by slaves in the 17th and 18th century helped to create the nation we know today. The work done by slaves in this dystopic version of the 21st century was doing nothing but making their “owners” wealthy. Other than this huge difference, everything about slavery is the same. It degrades the person. Former slaves have a difficult time trusting others because they have gone through something so awful. This leads to the question of what really leads to the institution of slavery?
.I really liked that although they are not in the most optimistic situation, them saying that "we haven't hit the bottom yet" (328) show that they are still hopeful and have a desire to improve their situation. It is especially very hard to have an optimistic mind when one is in a turmoil, because the bad situation usually wears people down, eventually wanting for them to give up. I was mostly proud of them that they did not give up to their circumstances, and decided to take charge with their lives. I think it was symbolic when at the end, they buried their dead and planted oak trees (328). burying their dead symbolizes burying their pain and suffer in the past and the act of planting the oak tree symbolizes their new beginning. I was very satisfied reading this book and glad that I did. one question I have is why they decided to call the place Acorn at the end? what does Acorn symbolize?
What stood out to me most was the way it seemed that they had traveled back in time. For example,in Chapter 21, the group is unsure if the San Luis Reservoir was safe to drink out of. Or when people set up plastic and cardboard tents as permanent residences. Butler really does a good job showing the level of pure desperation that Lauren and her group feel. Another example of the going back in time theme is Bankole, who farms for subsistence, something that went out of fashion in the 1930's. Developments like these give the feel of time moving in reverse, with society coming unraveled to almost no one's benefit.
I found this book to be some what of an interesting read. It kept me interested and wanting to see what would happen next with the ongoing journey. There are a few themes that seem to take place within the novel. Two themes that go hand in hand is the coming of age and the ability to rely on oneself. "Embrace diversity. Unite-or be divided, robbed, ruled, killed by those who see you as prey. Embrace diversity or be destroyed" (198). Lauren took matters into her own hands. There wasn't any authority to help her. Lauren grew from being a young teenager who was dependent on her family to an independent, forceful woman who can lead and helped others in a state where the survival of the fittest only survived. And when they reach the land where the first Earthseed community was created, they still need to be self-reliant because they must start virtually from scratch and support themselves. Self reliance becomes a basic ritual of the Earthseed community. They must take the initiative themselves and shape their own destiny based on their own efforts.
An important theme in Parable of the Sower is the idea of self reliance. The story chronicles Lauren, a fifteen year old, as she grapples with the fact that her community is doomed and sets out to establish her own new community over the course of three years. In Robledo the rule of law has broken down and law enforcement is corrupt, therefore it is up to her to create a new society. To do this she spends much time learning all she can about survival. She learns how to respond to medical emergencies and live off the land. In addition to being self sufficient in this regard she must also formulate a set of morals which work for her. She rejects her father’s religion, Baptist, and instead substitutes a religion which makes more sense to her; one based around the idea of change. The Earthseed community itself espouses self reliance by promoting taking initiative. In this religion one does not wait for God, but rather must act for oneself.
Throughout the novel Butler demonstrates her ability to paint a vivid picture of the scene she is describing. One scene in particular that caught my attention was when Lauren was describing what the freeways look like now that people are always traveling and walking along them, "But the freeway crowd is a heterogeneous mass--black and white,...then lurched to her feet and began walking again, leaning forward under her huge pack" (176-177). I had previously noted the theme of change, and now I see the theme of freedom coming full circle with the end of the novel. With Lauren looking to move north she is seeking freedom of her own, as well as helping the people she meets along the way with showing them that they too can find freedom if they look in the right places.