Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 576
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 is unsparing. Drug-addicted gangs of pyromaniacs kill for pleasure and burn their victims alive. Robledo is an armed camp, walled in against the outside world. Corporations exploit their indentured workers in a revived form of wage slavery. Women and children are frequent victims of rape. Lauren believes that her father’s traditional religion is useless in this state of anarchy.
The mutilation and murder of Lauren’s fourteen-year-old brother, Keith, by a crazed gang of drug addicts signals the community’s coming destruction. Her father goes missing and is presumed dead. When arsonists set fire to the town, Lauren escapes with her emergency backpack, along with several surviving friends. Lauren, who is unusually tall, dresses as a man for her own protection and begins her journey north among the countless refugees walking on the California freeways.
(The entire section contains 576 words.)
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