Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
In Parable of the Sower, Southern California in 2024 is a landscape of devastation caused by environmental disasters and governmental corruption. Evil flourishes because of power conflicts between the rich and the poor, who are sharply divided in a segregated society. Lauren Oya Olamina (an African tribal name) is the daughter of a Baptist preacher and educator. Her mother has died of a drug overdose. The family lives in the walled town of Robledo, near Los Angeles. Lauren is a “sharer,” one who suffers from hyperempathy, the ability to feel the pain of others, a delusional condition which inhibits her ability to act in a crisis.
Environmental disasters have caused a scarcity of natural resources. There has been no rain for years; people will kill for water. Only the wealthy can afford to bathe and wash their clothing; the poor are identified by their filthiness. Police and firefighters are corrupt and must be paid for their services. Feral dogs rove the countryside, killing humans. Lauren, fifteen, admires her father but rejects his traditional Christianity. She has begun a notebook with a series of short poems which reflect her growing belief in her original philosophy, which she calls Earthseed. God, she believes, is Change, and there is no heaven to offer comfort. People must adapt and depend on one another and on their own natural abilities to live in an indifferent world.
Butler’s description of life under these conditions...
(The entire section is 576 words.)
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Parable of the Sower begins in July 2024, in Robledo, in southern California. It is Lauren Olamina’s fifteenth birthday. California has changed drastically over the past three decades. Water is scarce and expensive, there are few jobs, and climate changes have produced massive rains followed by years of drought. Lauren lives in a neighborhood that is walled off for protection from the homeless people, drug addicts, vandals, arsonists, and thieves who roam the unwalled residential areas. Lauren’s father is a Baptist minister, and Lauren goes to church to be baptized, even though she no longer believes in the Christian God. The church is outside the wall, and the family goes armed. Many of the houses are burnt out and have been looted, and homeless families wander the streets. Lauren feels their pain because she suffers from “hyperempathy syndrome,” also called “sharing.”
Several weeks later, a neighbor named Mrs. Sims shoots herself. She was in despair after her family died in a house fire started deliberately. Meanwhile, Lauren tries to form a new concept of God. She decides that God is change, because the reality of life is that everything changes.
In February 2025, Lauren goes to the hills with a neighborhood group for target practice, where they encounter a pack of feral dogs. They shoot one dog, and as it dies, the hyperempathic Lauren feels its pain. Guns are...
(The entire section is 1303 words.)