Characters

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 469

Xenogenesis, which is also published under the title Lilith's Brood, is a series of three books by Octavia Butler.

Lilith Iyapo is taken from the Earth after she loses her family—her husband and her son—and is kept with the Oankali aliens for hundreds of years. When she wakes...

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Xenogenesis, which is also published under the title Lilith's Brood, is a series of three books by Octavia Butler.

Lilith Iyapo is taken from the Earth after she loses her family—her husband and her son—and is kept with the Oankali aliens for hundreds of years. When she wakes up, she's angry. She doesn't want to get to know the Oankali or mate with them. But she's been selected to carry one of the hybrids of humans and Oankali. Lilith is a fighter who resists the Oankali's efforts to mate her with their people—for a time. The Oankali change her by improving her body via her healing and strength. Eventually, though, she agrees to go through with it and tries to eventually convince other humans to work with the Oankali. The changes the Oankali gave her make it more difficult for her to work with them though.

Jdahya is the alien that teaches Lilith what she needs to know and prepares her to carry hybrids. He's an Oankali who looks like a reptile but is a kind and compassionate creature. The Oankali saved the humans who were about to go extinct. They want to repopulate the Earth with hybrids. His son, Nikanj, eventually bonds with Lilith as her mate. Nikanj is an Ooloi. He's able to link mates together and heal certain types of diseases and illnesses. The Oankali believe that creating a hybrid species will allow humans to continue without destroying Earth and each other.

Akin is the son of Lilith and her mates, five beings total. Two are human and three are alien; one of the aliens is an Ooloi. Akin is a human-Oankali hybrid. He's kidnapped by a group of people who oppose the Oankali and don't want to mate with them. The Oankali decide to let him stay with them because they need to decide what to do about the resistance.

Tino is Akin's adopted father. He's a human who doesn't want to mate with an Oankali but does want to be with Lilith. He's a product of his environment. In the village where they live, two hybrid children are kidnapped ,and many villagers want to cut off the parts of them that look alien.

Dichaan is Akin's Oankali parent who wants Akin to know more about his alien side.

Jodah is an Ooloi construct—the first—which means that it can also link mates and heal diseases despite its partial human ancestry. It goes to live in the forest because of its unique makeup. The Ooloi don't have a gender. It meets two humans who are still fertile named Jesusa and Tomas. They're still fertile. Jodah makes them both into his mates.

Aaor is Jodah's sibling and also an Ooloi construct. He isn't mated yet and, like all Ooloi, needs to be.

The Characters

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 558

Butler’s handling of characterization is particularly interesting because she deals not only with humans of all backgrounds but also with nonhumans. In fact, there are more sympathetic nonhumans than humans. Even Lilith, who has been chosen to be the mother of the new species, begins as a prejudiced and belligerent person. Because she is open-minded and sensitive, however, she eventually comes to understand beings so different from her own kind. Moreover, because she is at heart a nurturer, Lilith can love anyone who needs her. It is no accident that the Oankali assign to her an ooloi who is still a child or that she is allowed to help Nikanj through its metamorphosis. Her love for Nikanj, with a sound basis in her maternal response, later turns to passion and pleasure.

The most sympathetic humans in Butler’s trilogy share these characteristics so marked in Lilith. All are willing to listen to reason, and all are sympathetic to the needs of others. They include Lilith’s mates Joseph and Tino; her recruits, later Akin’s foster parents, Gabriel and Tate Rinaldi; and Jesusa and Tomas Serrano y Martin, who give their loyalty and their love to Jodahs and Aaor.

On the other hand, the unsympathetic humans are closed-minded, self-centered, aggressive, and prone to violence. These are the qualities that cause Lilith to refuse to mate with Paul Titus, who hits her when he is rejected. These are also the characteristics seen in the predatory raiders who kidnap Akin and in the armed gangs that roam the forest, shooting everything and everyone they see. Perhaps the most revolting human character is the woman who is determined to have the tentacles cut off captured girls so that she can think of them as her human children.

Because Butler’s male and female Oankali are by definition perfect, they are not particularly interesting characters. Their function seems to be to explain and to reflect their society. It was important for Butler to make the ooloi Nikanj an appealing character so that Lilith’s sexual commitment to it would be plausible and the Oankali system of mating acceptable to her readers. The author succeeds in making Nikanj one of the most sympathetic characters in the trilogy, as well as one of the most complex. Butler’s technique is to show Nikanj first as a vulnerable child, then as an adult who, like the humans in the novels, must cope with new and puzzling situations. In Dawn, for example, Nikanj must discover how to please a human woman and, later, to entice a human man into its bed. In Imago, by having a same-sex child, it emerges from the loneliness that supposedly is the inevitable condition of its gender, and it must also find a way to keep that child from being removed from it, as Oankali law dictates.

The protagonists of the second and third books in this trilogy are fascinating because they both manage to overcome whatever defects of character might have come from their human ancestry. Both are on probation. Both prove to be courageous leaders who, because they have the Oankali intelligence, can think and argue clearly, but because they are part human, can understand the lesser species. Thus both the Oankali Akin and the ooloi Jodahs serve as bridges between the two cultures of their mixed heritage.

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