Parable of the Sower Parable of the Talents Critical Essays

Octavia Butler

Critical Context

Because both Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents are science-fiction rather than mainstream works, they have largely escaped the notice of most literary critics, who often dismiss so-called genre fiction as unworthy of significant study or consideration. However, within the science-fiction community the novels received considerable interest as dystopic visions of the worst aspects of American society growing to obscure and even extinguish the nation’s ideals. Many reviewers within the science-fiction community have noted that Butler does not merely draw upon the science-fiction trope of the collapse of society to lower levels of organization, a trope that traces back at least to H. G. Wells’s novel The Shape of Things to Come: She also draws upon particularly African American motifs, such as exploitation and the preservation of dignity in the face of oppression. Because of the strong critical reception the Parable novels received in the science-fiction community, many feminist and African American critics examined them more closely.