Wow. I think I’m both delighted and depressed after reading Parable of the Sower. Depressed at how much it seems at times that we are headed in the direction of the world which Octavia Butler writes about. But delighted because the story drew me in and made me think about a lot of things. There are a lot of great parts of the story to analyze and discuss, but the one that I want to talk about is the relationship between Lauren and Bankole.
I could see the love interest coming from the moment Bankole entered the scene, and I felt a little weird about it at first. After all, if Lauren’s father is still alive, he would have been fifty-seven or fifty-eight, the same age as Bankole. So I definitely felt some initial discomfort at the thought of a potential love relationship between the two — it just seemed a bit hard to imagine being intimate with someone forty years older than myself, easily old enough to be my own parent. But Lauren’s and Bankole’s situation is a bit different. Whereas we usually associate relationships with such an age gap as having a huge power imbalance, Bankole treats Lauren as his equal in every way. He even defers to her when it comes to making decisions for the group. It is true that Lauren’s role is one of a matriarch kind of figure, but I still expected for a much older man to seek to undermine her power somehow. The fact that Bankole does not attempt to do any such thing makes me more comfortable with his and Lauren’s relationship. Furthermore, Lauren is very mature for her age, allowing her to bridge many of the gaps created by her age difference between Bankole.
I ended up feeling pretty okay with Lauren’s and Bankole’s relationship. But I’m interested in better understanding the initial discomfort that some may feel while reading about it. While they are not common, relationships with forty year age gaps exist today. However, I think they are generally of a highly patriarchal nature. Usually the older person in the relationship is a wealthy white man. His economic advantage, white privilege, and male privilege give him the power in the relationship. Take former Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, and his (ex)girlfriend for example. With connotations like this one, it’s no wonder our stomachs churn just a little bit when we are first introduced to Bankole’s and Lauren’s romance.
But Lauren’s and Bankole’s relationship is nothing like that. We know that there is nothing patriarchal about Bankole’s and Lauren’s relationship. Still, I’m curious, how would things be different had Bankole been an older woman and Lauren a young man? We also can’t ignore race. Both Bankole and Lauren are black. How would things be different if one or the other were white? Let me know what you all think!