Thursday, April 7, 2011

Parable of the Sower Chapter 19: Evolution and Change

Throughout the book The Parable of the Sower, many different ideas are shared by the Earthseed group. The leader of the group Lauren is what the book calls a “sharer.” She has a syndrome called hyperempathy. This means that she feels what other people feel. This is both an asset and a disadvantage for her throughout the book. The world in which the group Earthseed lives is full of corruption and pain. The group is made up of believers of a higher calling and they set out on a quest to change the world in which they live. The overall idea in their faith is change. They believe that by taking a positive ownership of change, that they will be able to make the world a better place.

In the verse in chapter 19, again there is a central point about change. They also integrate their belief that space travel allows for an escape from their world which is falling apart. They believe that it is important to have this destiny as something to believe in for the future. In the verse, the central object is the life of a galaxy. Throughout the verse the life of a galaxy is explained. I believe that they are relating this to their idea of life on Earth. They believe that, like a star, life first ignites. Then during its life it burns. Then it begins to age. Finally it cools and disappears. This can also be related to the idea of life on Earth. People are first born initially igniting their life. During their childhood and bulk of their life they burn. As they get older they begin to age. As they near the end of their life they begin to cool until they pass away. This metaphor is very effective in explaining the timeline of life.

Following this verse, the word Evolving is present. I believe that the Earthseed group understands that the world around them is constantly evolving or changing. This idea is integral in understanding their belief system. Understanding that nothing in life is a static event is important if you really want to evoke change in the world around you.

I believe that this verse in particular is the most important verse of the entire parable. There are many different meanings which can be applied to this phrase. Aside from the obvious meaning of the word evolving, which pertains to the evolving world around the Earthseed group, this word can also apply to humans in general. Throughout The Parable of the Sower it is clear to see that Lauren and her group is different from the rest of the world around them. In essence Lauren is an evolving being. Throughout history humans have evolved in order to survive their surroundings. Lauren is no different. Because she lives in a violent society, she is willing to protect herself in order to survive. This is clearly shown in chapter 19. While attempting to save Jill and Allie, Lauren and her group are attacked by several people. Although it hurts Lauren, she is able to kill her attacker in order to save herself.

Another way to look at the word evolution is to say that Lauren is a “servant of change.” This is to say that Lauren embraces change as a part of her world. She understands that change is the only way for her world to get better. She attempts to use the idea of change to preach her religion. This allows her to make this an integral part of her belief.

The idea of evolution or change is a very common idea. It is present in every part of our lives. It is clear that since she was born, Lauren’s life has gone through many changes. She has lost many people that she was close to. As a leader Lauren was unable to avoid change as seen in this quote, “even though change is difficult, leaders can't avoid it.” (Fearless Change)

In chapter 19, Earthseed encounters a very important event. An earthquake occurred, trapping two women beneath the ruins of a house. Lauren and her Earthseed members went in to the house to save the women knowing that their actions could put them at risk for an attack. In this situation Lauren is putting herself in danger in the hope that they would be able to make a difference in the world by saving the two women. When the group comes out of the house they are attacked by people who are intent on taking their possessions. Laruen in self defense is able to overcome her hyperempathy syndrome in order to defend herself and her group. She kills the man who attacked her even though she feels intense pain throughout the situation. ”I fell against him, I dragged him down with me. Somehow I managed to get my knife out. I flicked it open. I jabbed it upward into my attacker’s body. The six inch blade went in to the hilt. Then, in empathic agony, I jerked it out again.” (Butler 234)

The idea of evolution particularly in the form of Lauren is present in this situation. it is difficult to exactly determine what kind of evolution or change is present here. Lauren originally didn’t want to draw attention to them by trying to save the people trapped under the house. This was Harry’s idea. You may be able to say that Lauren’s idea changed when she followed the others into the rubble. Another change in Lauren can be seen in her ability to follow as well as lead her group. Although Lauren does not believe that the group should get involved, she understands that she cannot totally control them. Lauren is intrinsically a leader and shows this quality throughout the novel. The final change that can be seen during this situation is following the attack; Lauren is wary of who Jill and Allie are. She refers to them as “the one called Allie”, and “the one called Jill.” (Butler 234) Because she does not know who these people are, she does not immediately trust them. The change that occurs in the following chapter is that Lauren begins to explain to the girls who they are. She eventually becomes comfortable enough to them to refer to them by their real names.

Like the word Evolve in the verse, Lauren is able to evolve in order to survive. Although she feels intense pain when she kills her attacker, she does not feel guilt over the situation. Lauren believes that she can separate her faith in order to defend herself and her group. This ability and the belief that she can fulfill her quest for change are the propelling influences in her journey. Without the belief that she can accomplish her goal, there would be no reason to continue.

In the final line of the verse, the line reads “God Prevails.” I believe that this ultimately means that Earthseed’s idea of change will prevail whether they are successful in their quest to change the world or not. Change is the main factor within their lives and it will be there whether they are or not. This idea does not die with them and they are not the only ones who share this belief.

Throughout this verse there are two distinct ideas which are present. First the idea that everything in life evolves, and second, that the process of change will always prevail. There are many different ways to interpret these ideas and they are of course a matter of opinion. I believe that these ideas that I have presented are the closest to the meanings that Butler was searching for while writing her novel. I believe that one thing is clear throughout the novel. The idea that change is an integral part of our world and it cannot be escaped by anyone. These ideas are what propel the Earthseeder’s on their quest to change the world in which they live. Their belief that they will ultimately achieve their goal of change is what drives them throughout the novel.

1 comment:

  1. Why does this analysis matter?

    I don't ask that to be a jerk, but because there is a structural issue here. You're using a prompt which asked you to analyze a particular verse and apply it to the novel as a whole. But your job isn't just to follow the prompt - it's to write a functioning essay starting with that prompt. A functioning essay, by definition, is an argument, which should usually be clear from the beginning, and certainly shoudl be clear at the end.

    I'm not sure what your argument is. I know you're interested in the importance of change in the novel, and I know you're interested in how the word Evolution is used within both the verse and the novel; I also know that you're interested in what this verse has to do with the novel as a whole and with Jill & Allie's rescue.

    I know, in other words, that you have clearly defined areas of interest - that you have an approximate idea at least of what you want to investigate.

    But while this is a good starting point, it's just a start - you need to end up with something that you want the reader to take away from your essay; moreover, that sometime can't be (or shouldn't be) something obvious - your reader doesn't need to be shocked, but she does need to come away considering, at the least, a new or different point of view on the novel.

    Where I think you come the closest is with the way you keep returning to the word Evolution. The word is used in a strange way, and you're interested in Lauren as an evolving character founding an evolving religion. But in order to realize the potential of that area of interest, you needed to dig deeper.

    How, specifically, you might ask.

    I'd argue that the best starting point would be to start out with what the word means. You bring it up repeatedly, and then only really use it as a synonym for change. But it isn't just a synonym, or she'd probably just use that word, rather than switching to another one. Evolution involves not just change, but death; not just change, but change *between* generations; not just change, but reproduction, the survival of the fittest, etc.

    This essay needed to be more specific and focused; the most obvious way to do so would have been to pay more attention to everything about the term evolution and its implications.