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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 442

In Earthseed: The Books of the Living, created by a woman with a powerful will to survive and flourish, is evidence that individual persons can make a difference. Indeed, a novelist can make a difference. The inference is that some people will be helped by definition of a ritual with which to fix meaning in life. They want a spiritual discipline. They want it especially in the late twentieth century in which culture and civilization are fundamentally unstable. The secular culture satisfies too few of the needs of people, leaves too many poor and without hope. The result is a proliferating underclass increasingly contemptuous of laws, especially of those that protect property — none of which belongs to the underclass millions. People steal, vandalize, assault, and murder. Property is increasingly vulnerable. The wealthy withdraw into fortified enclaves, only to fight a losing battle that must end when the walls are breached and the gates broken. In July 2024, the outset of the story, Lauren Olimina is sixteen. It is her birthday and the birthday of the Christian minister father she loves very much. Her mother Cory is a teacher. Lauren is lucky to have such parents. She loves to read and write, and keeps a journal that becomes in fact the text of Parable of the Sower. They live in a fortified enclave. Very soon, the disenfranchised mob breaks in, and Lauren's parents die. Lauren escapes into the dangerous world. All she has is the love her parents gave her, a precocity for language, an unflagging hope, and her destiny. Some of the people she meets will be moved to hope because of her hope.

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Parable of the Sower's title, allusions, and references are explicitly biblical. Moreover, the report of Lauren's journal is of events of a journey in search of a place to make a home and a life, very like the quest for the biblical promised land of the Hebrews. As in the Bible, her Earthseed rules for life suggest rituals and advice for the survival of the community. Having drawn these comparisons, there are also significant biblical elements that Parable of the Sower repudiates. In fact Butler would elevate the place of women so that the recognition of the talent for thought and leadership is not biased by gender as it is, especially in New Testament interpretations by virtually all institutional Christianities. More simply, Butler's belief in the Bible, whatever it is, is masked in Parable of the Sower. But she has assimilated the Bible, perhaps an acknowledgement of how important it is in the history of African American writing, and the history of the ordeal of African people in America.


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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 968

Lauren rejects traditional religion. Based on her experience, she sees no relevance in a belief system focused on the Christian God. Instead, she forms her own religion based on her observation that everything in the universe changes. Change is the one constant in life. People can either accept change and work with it for the betterment of themselves and their community, or they can resist it, hoping in vain that things will carry on the way they always have done.

For Lauren, change is God. This God shapes humans and is in turn shaped by them. God is dynamic process, not a static, transcendental lawgiver and judge. Change is an irresistible force, and humans can harness it to promote the spiritual evolution of the race. According Lauren’s Earthseed religion, each human life is a seed that can sprout into something valuable and productive if it can adapt to changing realities. By yielding to change, this human earthseed can also shape it constructively. The consequences of failing to do so are death and chaos. The ultimate expression of Earthseed, its destiny, is “to take root among the...

(The entire section contains 1410 words.)

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