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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 148

Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler focuses on an American dystopian society in the 2030s. The novel is set in California, which is characterized by socioeconomic problems. The main character of the story, Lauren, believes in defeating the current regime, which is made up of Christian America Crusaders, and...

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Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler focuses on an American dystopian society in the 2030s. The novel is set in California, which is characterized by socioeconomic problems. The main character of the story, Lauren, believes in defeating the current regime, which is made up of Christian America Crusaders, and fighting for a better life.

In the book, the current president is Andrew Steele Jarrett, and his followers are Christian America Crusader fanatics. Jarrett's regime has brought no positive change in the country. The worrying state of the nation prompts Lauren to fight back and form a movement known as Earthseed, which is opposed to the ideologies of Andrew Jarrett and his followers.

Lauren and her followers prepare to make significant changes in their society. However, they underestimate the powerful forces against them, which results in the abduction of Lauren's daughter and further oppression from the current regime.

Summary

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 703

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 community, is killed. The remaining inhabitants are enslaved and forced to wear electronic collars which deliver excruciating pain at the flick of a switch.

The Crusaders run slave labor camps and force their slaves to watch public electronic lashings. They routinely rape women as a form of control. The Crusaders force their victims to memorize and recite Bible verses and punish homosexuality with death. The infant Larkin, along with the other children of Acorn, is taken away to be raised by a Christian family and renamed Asha Vere, after the character in a form of popular electronic entertainment called Dreamask.

Olamina’s harrowing escape from her slavery and her journey with her growing band of followers northward into Oregon is the principal narrative strain. Larkin’s parallel story reveals her connection with her uncle Marc (Marcus), Olamina’s brother from whom she was estranged because of their conflict between his traditional Christianity and Earthseed.

The followers of Earthseed, under Olamina’s leadership, become a wealthy sect after Jarret and his followers are defeated. The adult Larkin finally meets with her mother in a bittersweet reunion. Larkin learns that her uncle Marc, whom she reveres, has lied about her mother’s death. Olamina is devastated by her brother’s betrayal. Larkin believes that her mother had abandoned her, choosing instead to follow her beliefs, which Larkin regards as a fanatical cult. She calls herself Asha Vere, rejecting both her mother and her birth name.

At the conclusion, the followers of Earthseed, despairing of reforming the United States, are transporting themselves through suspended animation to their destiny among the stars. Olamina dies at the age of eighty-one. Her ashes will travel into space to fertilize the fruits of the new colonies of Earthseed—her chosen immortality.

Although classified as science fiction, this portrait of a devastated America is recognizable as an extreme extension of the evils of the late twentieth century: useless warfare, fanatical religion, gang violence, environmental despoliation, and sharp divisions between social classes.

Butler said that the philosophy of Earthseed mirrored her own beliefs. She extended the motif of Parable of the Sower, offering the scant hope that human beings can succeed only through a new beginning in space. The story concludes with a passage from the Gospel of Saint Matthew in which the servant who increases the value of his money (talents) is rewarded by his master. If Olamina represents the faithful servant who has used her talents wisely, it is ironic that her eulogy is framed in the parable of the Christian Bible that she has rejected.

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