The Novels (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
When Parable of the Sower was first published, its image of Robledo as a wealthy gated community living in fear of the have-nots beyond its walls seemed dystopian. The continued development of gated communities since has made its vision of the future more plausible. By contrast, the company town of Olivar, where people are promised food, employment, and a modicum of security in exchange for total submission to their employment, is somewhat more alien to the experience of most readers, but it still has recognizable historical analogs in the company store system of the nineteenth century.
Within Robledo’s illusory security, young Lauren Olamina grows increasingly frustrated with her parents’ refusal to confront the reality of their new world. While they prefer to look backward to a lost time of prosperity, Lauren develops a new religion called Earthseed and writes its sacred text, The Books of the Living. When she attempts to present it to her neighbors, she is at first mocked, but in time she begins to gain their attention, particularly as the walls that protect Robledo from the poverty and desperation outside begin to break down. In the end, Lauren leads a small surviving remnant northward to found a new community, Acorn, on land donated by Bankole, one of the refugees. Even as Acorn represents hope, however, Lauren and her followers recognize the necessity to defend their small community and preserve its ability to grow its own...
(The entire section is 546 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
In Parable of the Sower, Lauren Olamina is the only daughter of a Baptist minister who leads the family’s walled community in California in the year 2024. The neighbors valiantly try to protect one another against the hordes of illiterate homeless people and thieves in the western United States, which is suffering from extreme poverty and climate change. Lauren’s family scrapes out a living, but Lauren suspects that the community’s walls offer only an illusion of safety, particularly because the police are both corrupt and ineffectual. Lauren learns what she can about survival tactics and struggles to articulate in her journals the principles of Earthseed, a religion that she believes she has discovered. Earthseed is based on the premise that God simply means the concept of inevitable change. Lauren also struggles to hide her hyperempathy, a delusional syndrome—caused by her birth mother’s drug abuse—that causes her to experience the pain suffered by others.
As civilization continues to deteriorate, Lauren’s brother Keith runs away and is murdered by drug dealers, and her father goes missing and is presumed dead. When Lauren is eighteen, her worst fears come true when a murderous group of drug addicts burns down her community. Lauren is briefly incapacitated but manages to grab the survival pack that she keeps prepared. While combing through the wreckage the next day for some sign of her family, she finds only two neighbors still...
(The entire section is 1138 words.)