Discussion

 
Goal

Contribute to a class-wide discussion about Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Tom Moylan’s analysis of the novel

Initial Discussion Post 
Octavia E. Butler begins chapter 17 of Parable of the Sower (Links to an external site.) with the following Earthseed verse:
Embrace diversity.
Unite—
Or be divided,
robbed,
ruled,
killed,
By those who see you as prey.
Embrace diversity
Or be destroyed. (337)
In the chapter “Octavia Butler’s Parables”Links to an external site. in Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia, Tom Moylan writes,
In their invocation of commonality and diversity, Lauren’s words—and the reality of her group—recall the “blessed community” of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the early civil rights movement in the United States and the unity in diversity of the social movements of the 1980s, even as it begins to offer a sketch of what could be the emerging alliance politics of the 1990s. (234)
In this quotation, Moylan alludes to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), whose members shared Martin Luther King, Jr.’s desire to achieve a “blessed” or “beloved community” that would transcend differences, such as those based on race, religion, gender, and nationality. Moylan also alludes to the difference between identity politics and alliance politics. “Identity politics” refers to political movements in which people act together based on what they perceive are essential commonalities (tied to race, gender, class, etc.) among them. In contrast, “alliance politics” refers to political movements in which people from diverse races, genders, classes, etc. come together to fight together on behalf of shared goals.
Discussion Questions

First of all, what is your interpretation of Lauren’s verse that begins, “Embrace diversity” (quoted above)?
Next, in your opinion, does Lauren live according to this verse in the novel? That is, does she achieve what Martin Luther King, Jr. called a “blessed” or “beloved community,” which transcends differences, such as those based on race, religion, gender, and nationality? If so, how? If not, why not?
Finally, Moylan’s interpretation of Parable of the Sower in his chapter “Octavia Butler’s Parables” is optimistic. He believes that “the dystopia of 2027″—the year when the novel ends—”clearly is negated by the journey of Lauren and her friends away from their corrupt world and positively opposed by the utopian enclave of the Earthseed community” (237). Do you agree that, through their journey north, Lauren and her friends construct a utopian alternative to the dystopian world they attempt to escape? Explain your response.

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