Parable of the Sower Parable of the Talents Characters

Octavia Butler

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Lauren Olamina is an odd messiah, a young African American woman living in a gated community that seeks to preserve its slender claim on prosperity by walling out the poverty of the outside world and looks backward to a lost time of wonders when the cities still shone with light. However, her inability to rest upon the comfortable certainties her parents’ generation embraces drives her to develop the new religion she calls Earthseed, which is founded upon a metaphor of seeds and sowing humanity’s future. It rejects the patriarchial image of God as sky-father that pervades Christianity, as well as the matriarchial earth-mother goddess of paganism. Instead, Earthseed incorporates Buddhist and Sufi ideas, embracing the notion of reciprocal transformation to describe God as Change. Although Butler repeatedly said that she would not write utopias because she could not believe that flawed human beings could create a perfect society, in Earthseed she offered a vision of hope that transcendent consciousness can see humanity through even the grimmest of futures.

Andrew Steele Jarret, the villain of the second book, embodies the worst of the Religious Right. He is a fascist who imposes his own ideas of Christianity upon the country in the name of rescuing it from anarchy and chaos. His past connections with the Ku Klux Klan are openly remarked upon at several points in Parable of the Talents. He not only coerces people’s consciences, crushing dissidents through imprisonment and torture, but also kidnaps their children and places them in the homes of loyalists. Siblings are separated in order to reduce them to isolated social atoms, less able to resist the pressure to conform to “correct” beliefs.