Study Guide

Parable of the Talents

by Octavia Butler

Parable of the Talents Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Parable of the Talents introduces Larkin, commenting on the journals left by her mother, Lauren Olamina. Early in the twenty-first century, Olamina founded Acorn, a community of believers in Earthseed, a collection of philosophical statements based on the belief that God is Change. In the prologue Larkin reflects on her mother’s death. She believes that Olamina was a misguided prophet who neglected her family in order to promulgate her beliefs. The novel is both an account of Olamina’s life after the events of Parable of the Sower and the psychological journey of Larkin as she comes to terms with her own beliefs.

In Parable of the Sower, the United States in the early twenty-first century was a nation in chaos. The natural environment was devastated, and most people lived in poverty and degradation. Marauding gangs of drug addicts roamed Southern California, raping and burning and destroying the small, walled communities. Acorn, the working community founded by Olamina to live by the principles of Earthseed, was just barely surviving within its walls. The new president of the United States, Andrew Steele Jarret, imposed his fanatical religion, Christian America, on the nation.

Olamina’s journals reveal an obsessive missionary zeal to spread the philosophy of Earthseed; its central belief is that God is Change and that hope lies only in the willingness of human beings to control their own destinies. Larkin learns that her father, Taylor Bankole, a physician, had urged the family to join a safer community, but her mother refused. Acorn is raided by Jarret’s Crusaders, a fanatical sect of Christian America. Larkin’s father, along with other members of the...

(The entire section is 703 words.)

Parable of the Talents Bibliography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Allison, Dorothy. “The Future of Female: Octavia Butler’s Mother Lode.” In Reading Black, Reading Feminist, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. New York: Meridian, 1990.

Fry, Joan. “ Interview with Octavia Butler.” In Poets and Writers Magazine 25, no. 2 (March/April, 1997): 58-69.

Govan, Sandra Y. “Octavia Butler” in Notable Black American Women. Detroit: Gale, 1992.

Potts, Steven W. “We Keep Playing the Same Record: A Conversation with Octavia E. Butler.” Science Fiction Studies 23 (November, 1996): 331-338.

Stevenson, Rosemary. “Octavia Butler” in Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Carlson, 1993.

Zaki, Hoda. “Utopia, Dystopia, and Ideology in the Science Fiction of Octavia Butler.” Science Fiction Studies 17, no. 2 (1990): 239-251.