“All struggles / are essentially power struggles.” This is how the verse of the ninth chapter of Parable of the Sower begins. Out of them many verses written by the main protagonist Laura Olamina, this is the one that stood out to me the most. In 17 short lines, this verse can be applied to many of the internal struggles faced by the characters in the novel.
At first glance, I was under the impression that the verse that opened up the ninth chapter strictly applied to the events that happened within that chapter involving Laura’s brother Keith and their Father. The fights between Keith and Mr. Olamina were a struggle for dominance within the household. Just like the lines within the verse, Keith was intent of ruling, leading, and defining the Olamina household by any means necessary. Keith’s first attempt at dominance occurred when he ventured outside the walls of their compound. After spending almost two weeks outside, Keith finally returned back to the compound. In Keith’s eyes, he is braver and stronger than his father. He is able to venture outside the walls by himself with nothing but a BB gun and returned unscathed. He’s more than ready to lead and care for his family. And unlike his father, he is able to provide luxuries such as “big, expensive bars of milk chocolate with peanuts” for his youngest brothers, and large amounts of cash for his mother to use (Butler, 98). His father certainly thinks otherwise, and beats Keith in the hopes of him never stepping outside of the walls again. It seems that Mr. Olamina strongly believed that this beating would serve not only as a warning to Keith, but also work to hold his crumbling family intact. This incident is parallel to the line within the verse that describes power struggles as “no more intellectual / than two rams / knocking their heads together”. The power struggle between Keith and his father is just that. Both individuals are stubborn, hard headed, and intent on making sure things go exactly the way they want them to. Keith is trying to establish a higher place for himself within the household, while his father is doing almost everything within his physical power to prevent that.
The ideas of this verse can also be applied to the heated conversations that occurred between Laura and Harry just after their neighborhood compound was destroyed and ravaged. After some time on the outside, Harry started to show apprehension towards the behavior of both Laura and Zahara. It seemed as if Harry was keen on keeping the same mindset that he had held while living behind the walls. He even goes as far as to chide Laura for being tolerant of Zahara stealing. “Thou shalt not steal” Harry proclaims (Butler, 172). In Harry’s mind, his ideals are best suited for leading for the group. However, Laura is not willing to concede and live by Harry’s rules. She is very much aware that these same trusting rules are what led to the downfall of their neighborhood. Instead, Laura is intent on doing her best to make sure her and her companions make it through their environment alive, and by any means necessary. The lines “And most / are no more intellectual / than two rams / knocking their heads together.” Don’t necessarily apply to this situation. While Harry could be compared to a mindless ram intent on confrontation, Laura is far from that. Laura holds the qualities of a leader and takes her band of companions into the consideration in every situation. Every decision she makes is for the betterment of her group. Harry is stuck on moving through the decimated world like a mindless sheep, going through the motions just like he did behind the walls of the neighborhood. While reading the novel, I sensed that Harry was not entirely comfortable living under the leadership of a woman. This was a drastic gender role change compared to the one he lived in within the neighborhood walls. Women were expected to take on a domestic role, one that did not require them to venture outside the walls to work or travel. Laura even notices that “he just didn’t want to change” to their ever adapting surroundings. (Butler, 182). Unlike Harry, Laura is not a static character. Laura is continuously defining, refining, and designing her moral compass. This is not surprising though, due to her trust in Earthseed. Her entire religious movement is based on change, and it would be out of character if Laura was not ever changing and learning from her surroundings.