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The Parable of the Sower Analysis: Themes & Environment

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Updated: Dec 30th, 2019

Reading The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, it becomes apparent that the modern world is characterized by a myriad of social and environmental crises. In the words of Vargas, while responding to an interview with Essence magazine, Butler asserted that, in The Parable of the Sower, she did “look around at problems we are neglecting now and give them about 30 years to grow into full fledged disasters” (3).

Ideally, these problems translate into social struggles that people must live with. Many of the dominant themes in The Parable of the Sower surround this concern and may be argued as being widely inspired by her real-world experiences, coupled with the historical perspectives of her society. The analysis of The Parable of the Sower shall be provided in this paper.

Central Themes

The major themes of The Parable of the Sower include quests for freedom, change, social criticisms and horrors of living in a slavery world. The paper employs the contextual approach of the piece based on themes set out by the author. It gives an introspection of her biography as explained by Geyh, Leebron and Levy coupled with Vargas’ interpretation of The Parable of the Sower as a quest to bring into limelight various social struggles of the modern world.

Octavia Estella Butler was born of Laurice (her father who worked as a shoeshine) in Pasadena, California. She was brought up by her grandmother and mother with her father having died while she was an infant (Geyh, Leebron and Levy 554). She began her social struggles evident in The Parable of the Sower. While a small child, she was diagnosed with dyslexia.

While her mother worked as a house cleaner, a profession somewhat characterized by enormous erosion of personal freedom regardless of gender, her grandmother worked in a cane field as an outright slave. Geyh, Leebron, and Levy reveal how the absence of liberty characterized the two occupations of these two noblewomen in shaping Butler’s life.

They proclaim in Butler’s biography that “Octavia worked as a housemaid in the homes of white people who treated her as if she were less than human” and “Butler’s grandmother had been a slave in Louisiana, forced to work in the cane fields” (555). According to the analysis, The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler is thus merely a fictional world that the author would have desired to escape into if something was done to correct the current social suffering.

The Parable of the Sower begins in 2024 when the main character Lauren is born. She lives in a nation engulfed with miseries of persistent drought where water is scarce. Hence, those who live there are those who can pay for it. She lives in a surrounding where the homeless people are unable to penetrate.

Interpreted contextually, these surrounding means two different societies divided along the lines of superiority reminiscent of her mother and grandmother’s world.

The Parable of the Sower: Environment

Lauren grows within an environment characterized by contradictions of whom God is basing on the influx of traditional perceptions and Christianity perceptions of God.

This is evident because Lauren’s father does not believe in the Christianity God (Butler 16). Towards the end of chapter three, Lauren can develop her own genuine concept about God. This signifies her denial of traditional perceptions. Hence, it affirms the dominant theme of change. The rest of Lauren’s journey in The Parable of the Sower is inspired by desires of change that translate into her quests for freedom.

Lauren desires to escape from the walled environment to join the stereotyped neighbourhood described as “outside where things are so dangerous and crazy” (Butler 7). In fact, by the time the story ends, Butler develops a sense of communalism. According to The Parable of the Sower critical analysis, this acts as a plausible catalyst for the appreciation of concerns of all people who lived around her.

Social inequalities primarily result in a society that is full of poverty, which gives fertile grounds for the growth of social odds. Lauren’s social class, people have their freedom widely deprived, mainly based on the perceptions that they might face attacks and robberies from those who are less fortunate.

She gives this testimony through a description of what would transpire if they happen not to remain vigilant. She says, “I think if there were only one of us, or if they couldn’t see our guns, they might try to pull us down and steal our bikes, our clothes, and our shoes, whatever.

Then what…Rape…Murder?” (Butler 10). In the real world where Butler lived, violence against certain races was not a new thing: it was a norm as Geyh, Leebron and Levy inform that the whites living in the houses she worked as a house cleaner (555) treated her mother inhumanely. Tantamount to experiences of Butler’s grandmother, while working as a slave, Lauren had witnessed violence in “face of bitten desperate people and, worse, in empty eyes of corpses left to rot” (Vargas 10).

Slavery is, in fact, nothing to take pride. Perhaps reminiscent of her grandmother’s experiences in The Parable of the Sower, the less advantaged people are taken advantage of by people who mostly live in even higher walls than Butler does.

The poor are provided with only “shacky little dependencies” (Butler 9) for shelter while largely denying them fundamental human rights. Even in the light of upcoming people who recognize the need for protection of fundamental human rights across social divides, disadvantaged people seem not lucky.

Government and the Laws

The government enables the advantaged people to take advantage of poor living in volatile environments through the implementation of laws that “suspend ‘overly restrictive’ minimum wage, environmental, and worker protection laws for those employers willing to take on homeless employees and provide them with training and adequate room and board” (Vargas 21). Thus, The Parable of the Sower essay evidences that Lauren is ideally aware that such laws can never serve to benefit the less advantaged (slaves of the rich).

The laws, according to Lauren, would only make the rich oppress the poor even more. She questions; “Will it be legal to poison, mutilate, or infect people—as long as you provide them with food, water, and space to die?” (Butler 27). In the context of the Butler, the society was rotten, particularly when inspired by the author’s experiences of her family members.

When Lauren claims, “I’m trying to learn whatever I can that might help me survive out there” (Butler 58), and advises Joanne to try “anything that helps you learn to live off the land and defend ourselves” (Butler 59), it makes the reader wonder about the magnitude of suffering that pure African immigrants encountered. This is significant, especially bearing in mind that Lauren is an African- American who experiences troubles while living a relative life style. Butler’s world must have been worse.

Conclusion

Conclusively, as The Parable of the Sower analysis shows, interpreting the story contextually is like a true tale of Butler and her relatives’ life experiences entailing struggles with petty jobs, for instance, Butler’s father was a shoeshine. On a worse scale, Butler’s mother and grandmother are taken advantage of by others, and work as what may best be described as slavery.

With sharp political commentaries in The Parable of the Sower on the political regimes’ inability to set laws that confer fundamental human rights to all human races, Butler and her race situation seems problematic, especially when the trend is forecasted in the future following the year 2024 when the novel begins.

Works Cited

Butler, Octavia. Parable of the Sower. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 1993. Print.

Geyh, Paula, Fred Leebron and Andrew Levy. “Octavia Butler” In Postmodern American Fiction: A Norton Anthology. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1998. Print.

Vargas, Melissa. Confronting Environmental and Social Crises: Octavia E. Butler’s Critique of the Spiritual Roots of Environmental Injustice in Her Parable Novels. Boise State University: Boise State University Press, 2009. Print.

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"The Parable of the Sower Analysis: Themes & Environment." IvyPanda, 30 Dec. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/contextual-analysis-of-the-parable-of-the-sower-by-octavia-e-butler/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Parable of the Sower Analysis: Themes & Environment." December 30, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/contextual-analysis-of-the-parable-of-the-sower-by-octavia-e-butler/.


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IvyPanda. "The Parable of the Sower Analysis: Themes & Environment." December 30, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/contextual-analysis-of-the-parable-of-the-sower-by-octavia-e-butler/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "The Parable of the Sower Analysis: Themes & Environment." December 30, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/contextual-analysis-of-the-parable-of-the-sower-by-octavia-e-butler/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Parable of the Sower Analysis: Themes & Environment'. 30 December.

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