The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

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...

(The entire section is 558 words.)