Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Crack Epidemic in Parable of Sower

Ae-Ree Choi
Crack Epidemic in Parable of Sower
In the early 90s, the use of crack was a major problem that was occurring in many parts of the country. Crack, often referred as the poor man’s cocaine, had become the fastest growing drug problem in the North American and one of the roots of serious ills of the society (Malarak). Not only that, the use of this drug generated increasing rate of crime, especially in the poor neighborhoods. According to New York Times, “Nothing seems to destroy poor families faster than the crack epidemic…mothers and brothers are selling the sexual favors of their daughters or sisters to raise money to buy crack; that females users outnumber male users in some cases; and that teen-age girls are deserting their families and joining violent gangs to sell or buy crack” (New York Times). Octavia Butler, the author of the Parable of the Sower, critiques this issue of the society by using the parable and portraying similar drug abuse, which leads the society as a whole into total disarray.
Butler portrays the destruction of the society as a warning when the people will keep abusing the drug. She introduces this new drug, pyro, in the book, which refers to crack in the real society. Pyro, which is also referred as a “ro” (butler), is introduced in the novel when Joanne and Lauren are talking after Amy’s Death, when Lauren says, “ And you know that drug that makes people want to set fires?... The reports say that it makes watching a fire better than sex” (Butler 55). In a way, Butler uses the fear of people in order to signify the problem of the drug use. Setting houses on fire is something that cause harm not only to drug addicts, but also to innocent people who are not addicted to drugs. Therefore, Butler tries to raise the issue of drug use and tries to make readers aware of the effects, even to the audiences who are not abusing drugs, by indirectly telling them that it will cause harm to them as well.
In addition, Lauren mentions many problems of her society, especially the poverty, which leads to poor people who are “ Illiterate, jobless, homeless, and without decent sanitation or clean water” and more shootings, more break-ins, and epidemic Measles (Butler 54). As mentioned above, the crack epidemic was a major problem when this novel was written, especially in the impoverished neighborhoods. The fact that Butler’s novel takes place in the near future has stronger psychological effect on the audience because all kinds of crimes, such as murder, robbery, prostitution, which are germane to real life, might lead to our society’s turning into a society that Lauren lives in: a dystopia where humans are not humans anymore.
Therefore, Butler incites the audience for an immediate action and more engagement in government control regarding drug issues as well. When Joanne and Lauren talk about the major problems of the society that they are living in, Joanne says, “My mother is hoping this new guy, President Donner, will start to get us back to normal” (54). Mentioning a political figure and hoping that he can fix the problems that are pervasive in society show Butler’s intention to make readers become aware of the necessary support from the government to clean up the squalid society. Regarding the crack epidemic of the early 90s, the New York Times also reports that, “The federal government must become a lot less stingy in the dollars it provides for treatment facilities and social workers to give the crack addicts the help they need. The public can't stick its head in the sand and hope the problem will somehow solve itself” (New York Times). The Encouragement of further involvement of government in the article and Butler’s mentioning of the president, who represents the government, to get them back to normal shows Butler’s message that government’s intervention is essential regarding this issue.

Editorial. “Cities Can’t Ignore Crack Epidemic”. New York Times. August 15, 1989. March 8, 2011.
Malarek, Victor. “Crack use near epidemic, Toronto Police Warn”. The Globe and Mail (Canada). February 11, 1989. March 8, 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Your research is fine, and you do a decent job of sketching some initial parallels between the real and fictitious drug epidemics. That being said, the next question is: what do we *do* with this parallel? How does it help us understand the novel differently/better, which, after all, is what we're doing here?

    You only briefly hint at an answer, by bringing up the hopes associated with President Donner in relationship with the drug epidemic. This is a brief and uncritical mention, though; throughout the rest of the novel, Donner is mostly portrayed as a failure, who is responsible, at least in part, for deteriorating work conditions and the return of slavery.

    What does that mean? It might (possibly) indicate that Butler is being a little bit saracastic or double-faced in the comparison to the crack epidemic: she might be criticizing the reaction to it, as much as or more than the thing itself. That's not necessarily the only way of reading it - my point is that you doing anything to establish or ask what the parallels and epidemics mean - you just establish the parallel.